Good Friday Launch For Bad Data Law : Data Retention

Good Friday is nominally the day telcos and ISPs are required to start collecting and storing all user’s private and personal metadata, but according to Internet Australia, the NFP peak body representing internet users, the scheme is unlikely to fully achieve the Government’s stated aims.

The Data Retention Act was passed two years ago at the height of the Abbott Government’s terror alerts and purported to be essential in the fight against terrorism. However, IA warned a parliamentary inquiry two years ago that the legislation was fundamentally flawed.

At the time IA’s then CEO Laurie Patton questioned the scheme on cost and operational grounds. “International experience has found that data retention is of limited, if any, value in the fight against terrorism. Many European countries are struggling with or winding back their data retention schemes in the light of concerns for personal privacy rights. Yet we will be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this questionable law.”

Fast forward and IA is now pointing to a major weakness in the scheme. “The fact is, the Government doesn’t actually know how many ISPs there are much less how to find them all,” said Executive Chair, Anne Hurley. “The Attorney-General’s Department received 210 applications for funding under the scheme and approved 180. However, it is widely believed there are more than 250 ISPs out there, possibly many more.”

As IA points out, the ability of the security agencies to create a mass store of everyone’s metadata is a prerequisite for the scheme to work effectively. “If there are huge gaps in the data collection the value of the scheme will be severely diminished,” Ms Hurley added.

According to IA, the long term implications of the Data Retention Act also include the potential for a loss of competition in the supply of internet services, with Ms Hurley warning the compliance costs of the scheme will be felt hardest among smaller operators. “Our fear is that many of smaller ISPs who provide niche, especially in regional Australia, are faced with another technical and financial hurdle that threatens the very variability of their businesses. Our ISP members are very unhappy and with good reason.”

IA has repeated a call it made last year for the Government to bring forward a review of the data retention scheme scheduled to take place in 2019. “We have a flawed scheme that will see consumers paying more for their Internet. If we must have a data retention scheme the Government should properly fund it and make sure it will actually work,” Ms Hurley concluded.



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