The metadata retention act came into being a few weeks ago. The Attorney General’s department says this is essential as: “Inconsistent retention and unavailability of data has hampered investigations and prevented perpetrators from being brought to justice.”
Whether we like it or not, this legislation was passed and is now law.
One of the ‘features’ of the law was that the list of agencies that can be granted access to the metadata retained by telecommunications companies can be expanded without the need for changes to the law or, indeed, any real legislative oversight.
When the law was being drafted and lobbied for by the Attorney General’s department the focus was on counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, organised and major crime investigation, child abuse and child pornography offences according to comments made by George Brandis.
But before the law was even passed the Australian Tax Office wanted access to the metadata and now, we hear, that racing authorities want access to the data as well.
Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton says, “This is just what many people feared. The Data Retention Act only came into effect last month and we are already seeing attempts to widen its reach.”
Now, let’s stop and think about this. We have police and law enforcement agencies who seem to have scant regard for privacy. I’ve lost count of the number of stories where police officers have been found using access to data for personal vendettas and to do favours for friends or just to spy on celebrities.
And horse racing, which is such a ‘clean’ industry that it gave rise to the phrase ‘colourful racing identity’ as a sobriquet for ‘known criminal with a flashy personality’, is looking for access to data that can be used in ways the designers of this poorly conceived legislation could never have imagined.
Can I urge every Macworld Australia reader to write to the local Federal member and protest any such expansion of the metadata retention scope.