Thursday, January 29, 2015

Australia Could Hold On to Telephone and Web Data Indefinitely


SYDNEY – The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) would be able to retain call and web records of its citizens indefinitely if a data retention bill gets approved, press reports said Wednesday.

The plan is contained in a document presented by the inspector general of intelligence and security, Vivienne Thom, to a joint parliamentary inquiry into the federal government’s proposal to store Australians’ phone and web data for two years, according to the Australian edition of The Guardian daily.

Under the proposal, companies can retain the metadata obtained from users for two years so that they can be accessed by the intelligence agencies without a warrant.

Thom’s document, one of 200 submissions to the inquiry, said that the powers conferred on ASIO did not oblige it to erase or destroy the web and phone telecommunications data that it had obtained.

“Where an inquiry or investigation concludes that a subject’s activities are not, or are no longer, relevant to security, the records of that inquiry or investigation shall be destroyed under schedules agreed to between ASIO and the National Archives of Australia,” read the text.

Although the director-general of ASIO has the power to destroy certain telecommunications data that require warrants when it is found no longer to be required, this has never happened.

“Currently no records are destroyed under these provisions,” said Thom’s submission, that also asked the committee to consider whether changes should be made to guidelines on the destruction of data that is not relevant to inquiries.

The inspector general also pointed out that sometimes errors had occurred in the handling of the data since the telecommunication companies had provided the wrong information to ASIO.

The legislative committee that examines the proposal of retention of metadata as part of the strengthening of security laws in Australia will hold hearings on Thursday and Friday in the presence of representatives of the security and intelligence forces and telecommunications companies.


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