The Australian's government proposed data retention scheme won’t be used to go after internet pirates, says Tim Morris the federal police assistant commissioner.
Morris told a technology conference on Sunday that the $400m scheme, under which Australians’ metadata would be retained by internet service providers for up to two years, was essential to fight cybercrime and terrorism.
Phone numbers, the time and duration of calls, email addresses and, potentially, URLs would all be stored, but Morris reiterated that the AFP was “not interested in someone sitting down in their lounge room torrenting Game of Thrones”.
Since last December, the Australian government has asked to develop a new code of practice on copyright that would could change the lay of the land for the Internet industry for decades to come. The code is designed to force ISPs to adopt new “reasonable measures” to deter copyright infringement—measures that the Australian High Court had earlier decided that they were under no obligation to adopt. The results of that process have just been released in the form of a draft industry code, which is open for public comment until March 23, 2015.
Australia’s Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has called for journalists to be exempt from government access to phone and web data, warning that the government’s data retention proposal risks making it impossible for a free press to function.
The plan to retain web and phone data will mean that a range of telecommunications and service providers will need to keep an as-yet-unspecified set of data.
The bill does not limit the range of offences that can be investigated, which means that phone and web metadata may be used to investigate confidential sources and whistleblowers who provide information to journalists without the approval of the government.
An inquiry revealed that the new mandatory data retention scheme in Australia still remains unclear for telecommunications and service providers. While it is clear that organisations would need to retain data, it is less clear, for example, whether providers of voice-based web services would need to keep data for two years.
Moreover, the president of the online privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia, Jon Lawrence, raised considerable concerns about the proposal on privacy grounds. He said the nature of the data to be retained needed to be articulated in the legislation, and not in a regulation made subsequently by the attorney general.
Additionally, in written submissions to the inquiry, most law enforcement agencies were unable to provide information on how telecommunications data has been used to prevent crime and the age of the data requested.
Australians may soon be able to pay bills to every level of government and get information about all government services through a single website with one login, as easily as they can do internet banking or order a taxi through an app.
Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said his first priority was “how to make the service work from the point of view of the customer” because “we already know it is going to save money”.
Australia will amend copyright laws to allow courts to order the blocking of overseas websites used for illegal downloads and streaming. The government has given internet service providers (ISPs) and copyright holders a four-month deadline to develop a new industry code which should canvass a “fair” sharing of the cost of notifying and educating customers about infringement.