Attorney-General’s Department corrects data retention statement

Bec Fary / July 09, 2013 03:00 PM

The Attorney-General’s Department has admitted information it gave on data retention was false. 

In a correction to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the department has revealed two provisions for a data retention scheme were drafted at its request.

Greens senator Scott Ludlam asked the Department to provide details of an industry consultation on data retention law in May.

At the time, the department sought to play down its commitment to data retention.

But claims that the department had not prepared data retention legislation were false.

In a statement to the Senate Committee, the department corrects the record on its answers.

“In an exchange with Senator Ludlam in relation to the existence of a draft Bill that included data retention provisions, (Assistant Secretary Catherine Smith) stated that there were some very vague draft provisions, but not to do with data retention,” the department wrote.

“The Department would like to clarify that Ms Smith was referring to the fact that there was no draft Bill on data retention. However, there were two draft provisions on data retention, but they did not detail a comprehensive data retention regime.”

A proposed data retention scheme that would have required Australians’ internet and phone activities to be stored for up to two years was rejected last month.

ASIO describes communications data as “vital to law enforcement and security”.

“Given complex investigations are measured in years rather than months, access to Communication Assisted Data for a minimum period of two years is proposed,” ASIO said in a submission to parliament on intelligence and security.

“Shorter periods of access carry the risk that agencies may be less able to access the critical intelligence that they require to progress an investigation.”

Communication service providers are not currently required to store data any longer than they need for business purposes.

Given the growing volumes of data sent and received via digital communication, the government would reimburse service providers for ongoing storage costs under the proposed scheme.

But changes to data retention law could have serious privacy implications.

The Australian Privacy Foundation says Australians per capita are subjected to more data interception than almost anyone else in the world.

Electronic Frontiers Australia said if the Attorney-General’s Department plans went ahead it would be a threat to Australians’ privacy.

“These activities threaten the privacy of everyone: you, your family, your friends, community groups, religious organisations, activists and political parties from all over the world,” they said in a statement on July 6, a National Day of Action for privacy protection. 

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