Surveillance Reform: The Devil’s in the Detail

The government is proposing significant revisions to the telecoms intercept law. Unlike the UK, where legislation was rushed through with little consultation, there is a senate committee consulting with the public and industry on the proposal.

It’s another stab at trying to get telecommunications companies to retain metadata, including a swag of transitory information that is deleted perhaps minutes after it is collected. The industry, understandably, argues that the cost of storage needs to be met by someone, just not them. But the broader question is, is it in the public interest? How do you achieve the balance between preventing terrorism without unnecessarily invading your privacy.

You’ll hear from some of those appearing at the senate committee’s public hearing in Sydney this week, including:
– Stewart Baker, former first Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security
– John Stanton, CEO of the Communications Alliance
– Chris Althaus, CEO of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association
– Steve Dalby, Chief Regulatory Officer at iiNet
– Nigel Waters, The Australian Privacy Foundation

As we discover, a blanket approach offering rich metadata to any law enforcement agency that wants it is probably not the best way forward. There needs to be a clearer definition of the various types of metadata, some of which should require a warrant to access.

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