Govt wants public vote on data retention

By Darren Pauli on May 4, 2012 11:51 AM
Filed under Communications

Back-door negotiations reach public sphere.

The Federal Government will establish public hearings on its proposal to implement a data retention scheme and drastically bolster ASIO's power to intercept telecommunications.

The reforms would force telcos to keep subscriber data for up to two years and make it an offense for companies to not decrypt the information, according to reports in The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Government would also seek feedback on whether the government should mandate security arrangements to ensure telcos are hardened against potential data breaches.

A spokesman for federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon confirmed the Government would ask a parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security to consider the reforms after public consultation.

“Unlike the Howard Government which introduced reforms without consultation, we are going to public consultation first,” the spokesman Chris Owens told CRN sister site SC Magazine.

“We haven't drafted legislation yet and we are seeking a wide view of opinion before we consider the reforms in detail.”

The move toward public consultation comes nearly two years after the Attorney-General's Department, under Robert McClelland, began confidential discussions with ISPs and other stakeholders on the data retention proposal.

Attempts to determine the content of those discussions under Freedom of Information legislation have been met with resistance and highly-redacted documents.

However, ISPs have warned that attempts to establish a service provider that encrypted all user and resisted authority requests for interception - as proposed by some in the US - are difficult under existing intercept laws.

Other reforms proposed by Roxon, and subject to public consultation, include streamlining the approval and renewal of search warrants available to ASIO, and extending their validity from two to six months. This would bring the warrants in line with standards of other warrants.

Warrants would also become more flexible, allowing ASIO to tap multiple devices including phones and computers. Similar reforms have been pushed for warrants available to law enforcement to help them keep up with suspects under surveillance who rapidly swap communications devices.

The number of agencies able to intercept would be reduced, replaced with greater information-sharing between those who could.

The joint committee would report back by the end of July if it agreed to consider the reforms.

Additional reporting by James Hutchinson.

 
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