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Australia says no to mandatory Data Retention Bill (for now)

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

July 2, 2013

On June 24, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that Australia’s ruling Labor Party, in the face of broad public criticism (99 per cent of Australians objected to the bill when surveyed last summer, and the recent NSA revelations can only have served bolster this opposition), would drop its pursuit data retention laws, at least until after the next election. The announcement followed a report by a parliamentary select committee that not only declined to recommend such measures, but strongly criticised the government for failing to either adequately justify or explain its proposal.

The Bill was the result of pressure from security agencies, and would have required communications companies to store metadata, including IP addresses, telephone numbers, duration of call, and location information for 2 years.

Enjoying enthusiastic support from security and law enforcement agencies (over 40 of which made almost 300 thousands requests from ISPs for metadata in 2011-2012, with no requirement for a warrant), the bill faced opposition from ISPs and service providers, as well as a coalition of human rights activists and legal protection groups such as the Australian Pirate Party, the Law Council of Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and The Australian Institute of Public Affairs

While broadly welcoming the announcement, Green Party Senator Scott Ludlam raised the issue of Australian security services bypassing domestic due process by collaborating in data exchange with the NSA and its PRISM program. He also warned that whoever wins the next election, the issue of data retention is likely raise its ugly head again, and privacy advocates everywhere need to remain vigilant and ready to fight for our freedoms.

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