Turnbull introduces surprise data retention legislation

Turnbull introduces surprise data retention legislation

The federal government this morning introduced legislation for a mandatory data retention scheme which requires telecommunications companies to store customers’ records for two years.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 into Parliament this morning in a surprise move. 

The bill allows law enforcement agencies to access customers’ metadata without a warrant.

The bill does not explain exactly what constitutes metadata, but it will not include the content of calls or emails, web browsing history or website addresses.

The time, date and location of calls and emails – including source IP addresses –is usually classed as metadata.

The mandatory data retention period of two years across all data sets contrasts with the United Kingdom where the period is only one year.

The data to be retained under mandatory data retention laws will be prescribed by regulations which are yet to be announced.   

If service providers don’t comply with the data retention laws, this will be deemed a civil penalty.

Service provider iiNet has previously estimated data retention will cost $130 a year per customer.

A survey conducted by Protiviti ahead of this morning’s announcement found Australian businesses generally support the government’s data retention proposals, but harbor deep concerns about the measure’s ‘knock-on’ costs for the business community.

Of the 40 respondents, 64% supported the government’s push to require telecommunications and internet companies to retain customer communications data for national security purposes for up to two years.

But 78% said this was strictly on the proviso that authorities have a court-issued warrant to access the data – a restriction that does not currently apply to law enforcement agencies.

Steve Dalby, chief regulatory officer, said although the service provider is encouraged by a move away from some “more Orwellian” aspects of the government’s data surveillance proposal, there is no urgency for the bill to be passed.

“This is now at least the fourth data set of a retention regime floated by the government, and given this type of confusion we need to take a deep breath, step back and have a good look at this new bill,” he said

“There is still no explanation of why there is any need for urgency or why the existing law is insufficient.”

Dalby said at a first reading, “the devil is certainly in the detail” of the proposed Bill.

“In particular, there is a need for clear definition of terms, including what type of personal information may be captured by this proposed legislation.”  

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