Friday, 29 August 2014

Abbott Government's latest list of 'metadata' about you it wants stored in order to spy on your Internet & mobile phone activity

According to the Australian Parliamentary Library on 24 October 2012 there were 29.28 million active mobile services (voice and data)in Australia, 10.54 million fixed-line telephone services, 3.8 million home VoIP users, 10.9 million Internet service subscribers. With 57 per cent of people using three communication technologies (fixed-line telephone, mobile phone and Internet), 26 per cent using four communication technologies (fixed-line telephone, mobile phone, Internet and VoIP) and 21 per cent of people (aged 14 and over) accessing the Internet via a mobile phone.

With the exception of fixed-line services, it is probable that numbers in all these communication categories will have increased by now.

The Abbott Government intends to create legislation requiring internet and telephone providers to store all subscribers' metadata for a period of up to two years in order that certain government agencies can access this information without a warrant.

Warrentless searches of subscribers' metadata have apparently been surreptitiously occurring for years, as indicated in The Canberra Times on 20 August 2014:

The federal government has been left red-faced following revelations that law-enforcement agencies have been accessing Australians' web browsing histories without a warrant.
Access to phone and internet data held by telecommunications companies has been the subject of much debate recently, as the government seeks to extend the power of intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime. It has proposed telcos retain customers' metadata for up to two years for investigation.
However, spy agency ASIO and federal police have given assurances that data on what websites Australians visit - know as web history - could only be obtained with warrants.
Now a paper published by the parliamentary library on Monday has revealed an industry practice of providing website addresses (URLs) to law enforcement without warrants.
Telstra confirmed on Tuesday evening it had provided URLs to agencies without a warrant "in rare cases". It did not name the agencies or how many times it provided information.

IT News on 26 August 2014 reports the latest list of ‘metadata’ the Abbott Government has told the telecommunications industry it wants stored by Internet/phone service providers in order to conduct warrantless mass surveillance of the populace:

* names, addresses, birthdates, financial and billing information of internet and phone account holders;
* traffic data such as numbers called and texted, as well as times and dates of communications; 
* when and where online communications services start and end; 
* a user’s IP address; 
* type and location of communication equipment; and
* upload and download volumes, among others.

One rather suspects that with this definition of retained metadata the Federal Government and its agencies can do a lot more than keep alert to any alleged domestic terrorist threat.

There is room for 'function creep' to become established. 

Previously in an August 2012 submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security the Human Rights Law Centre expressed concern that:

Everyone’s communication data is kept, not just those suspected of a crime. Large repositories of private data tempt ‘fishing expeditions’ – trawling though private data in search of suspicion, not on the basis of it. A nation of citizens thus becomes a nation of suspects.25

On 27 August 2014 The Canberra Times published the confidential data retention industry consultation document.


The 2010 version of consultation concerning the proposed data retention policy also clearly outlines an intention to monitor the daily habits and social networks of ever Australian resident via their Internet and telephone use.

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