Data-retention plan like ‘punching at a cloud’

The Federal Government’s plan to effectively reverse existing privacy legislation by endorsing a two year data-retention policy for internet service providers has been called “Gestapo” tactics by one Liberal MP.


Yesterday, Attorney General Nicola Roxon told a Security in Government conference that the “proposed reform is to allow law enforcement agencies to continue investigating crime in light of new technologies.”

The statement moves away from Ms Roxon’s previous statement about the plan and has met with opposition from privacy groups and the IT sector.

They fear that the plan does not address the need for extended powers, will effect e-business and will expose civilian data to risk.

Making a submission at today’s conference on behalf of Blue Print for Free Speech, Simon Wolfe said the Attorney General’s proposed reforms were “vague” and likened them to “punching at a cloud”.

“The onus should be on those proposing the reforms to justify what they should be,” he said.

“They are talking about the merits of increased powers without actually talking about why they are needed in the first place.”

Mr Wolf’s submission also said the plan imposes unreasonable costs, requiring private providers to carry out public surveillance, a sentiment echoed by others in the technology sector.

Pete Cooper is co-founder of Fishburners, the largest collective of tech start-ups in Australia.

He says that the government’s data-retention plan will be a hurdle for international businesses looking to invest here.

“There is a mini boom going on in the data centres at the moment,” he said.

“The one selling point Australia has going for it is a perception of quality and force of law – one tiny security breach would have a dire effect on that perception.”

“There are thousands of layers to this thing and it’s full of holes – none of them good and none of them good for commerce.”

But despite fears about costs, some companies will benefit from the plan — the data-retention industry, as with the data-mining industry, is a multi-billion dollar sector.

Rob Livingstone is a UTS fellow and an information technology expert who says private industry is set to gain – with potential risks to the privacy of Australian citizens.

“The government puts out a tender for the storage of so many exabytes of data, then private markets rub their hands with glee trying to get their hands of that pot of gold,”

“If you get Australian data from citizens in an Australian jurisdiction and you sign a contract to an Australian data host to provide it, and three months after the contract is signed they [could] get bought out by a Chinese or American firm.

“The government cannot mandate that you will always be an Australian-owned company.”

Mr Livingston is also concerned about the security of systems the Government would put in place for data-retention.

“Data-retention is data-sovereignty,” he said.

“The data is resident in a data centre somewhere. That data is very portable; it could be striped across multiple data centres for redundancy and availability purposes.”

In the rapidly changing data industry, Mr Livingstone says the ultimate destination of Australians’ data could be far away from where the government intends.

Also, sophisticated crime syndicates or terrorist groups, the intended targets of the government plan, are already using advanced ISP masking and protocols that circumvent the proposed measures, he said.

“It’s fine for politicians to get up and make grand statements but the potential complexity of this thing in application and practicalities needs to be serious considered,” he said.

Speaking from today’s conference, Mr Wolfe said his biggest concern about the proposed changes was the privacy of individuals.

“Our objection is that they unreasonably interfere with people’s privacy, they have a chilling effect on freedom of expression,” he said.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation