David Leyonhjelm on data retention

From The Fin Review today.

A Senate committee is investigating a proposal to force internet service providers to store for two years every email sent, website visited and communication undertaken by their customers.

The idea, which originated with the previous government but is lingering, is to replicate for the internet what police have long enjoyed with respect to telephone calls – access to records of who we called and when.

Telephone companies retain call records in order to bill us. But this is not the case with records of internet activity. This proposal would require the creation of giant new databases, many times larger and more revealing than telephone records. Most Australians make at most a few calls a day, but we send and receive dozens of emails and visit hundreds of websites. Many use the internet for everything from banking to researching health concerns and chatting with secret lovers.

The proposal also calls for each internet provider to be responsible for keeping these vast new information archives secure, at their own expense.

The sole purpose of retaining the data is to ensure it is available in case authorities want to look at it later. The law enforcement and security agencies are all in favour, arguing it is required to keep us ahead of terrorists, spies and organised crime.

While the proposal under consideration is for the retention of metadata, or details of who was contacted and when, some have called for the content of phone conversations, emails and browsing history to be stored as well. The corporate regulator, ASIC, argued that this is needed to investigate insider trading and Ponzi schemes. The ACCC and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service made similar claims.

At the same time, proposals by internet providers to encrypt all internet data to protect the privacy of their customers have been met with howls of outrage from the same authorities, on the basis that it will make it more difficult to pry.

This issue has the potential to redefine the relationship between those in authority and the people they are supposed to serve. Liberal democracies are not usually comfortable giving government bureaucrats more power merely because they ask for it. And it’s a safe bet that even if access to the data is initially limited, it won’t remain so. Already, access to telephone records is available to the Tax Office and organisations such as the RSPCA, Australia Post and local councils without a warrant. Around 330,000 requests for telephone data were made in the 2012-13 year.

It is likely the idea for data retention came from Europe, but its record there is poor. Germany’s parliamentary research unit surveyed European crime statistics between 2005 and 2010 and found no evidence to suggest data retention was helping solve crimes, and in April the European Court of Justice declared it invalid.

What the proposal indicates is that our authorities view ordinary people as criminals in waiting. The same thinking has in the past led to proposals for a national identify card to prove we officially exist, or a national fingerprint or DNA database so we can be tracked down when we inevitably offend.

What seems to be forgotten is that it is the authorities that pose the greatest threat to our freedom, not criminals and terrorists, and that they are ones that should be closely monitored.

For police to so strongly support this additional power suggests attitudes are far removed from Peel’s Principles of Policing, where the police are the public and the public are the police. ASIO’s claim that it is justified because of Edward Snowdon’s exposure of massive US government encroachment on privacy is Orwellian. And the claim by our secret police, the Australian Crime Commission, that not having the data is equivalent to having two hands tied behind its back, suggests it is currently ineffectual and could be abolished.

It is high time the police and security agencies rediscovered their status as public servants, not public masters, and returned to professional police work. It is legitimate to require the data of suspects to be preserved, subject to appropriate oversight, just as with traditional phone tapping, but not to treat every Australian as a potential criminal.

The Liberal Democrats are strongly opposed to any loss of liberty at the hands of the government and its agencies, no matter what justification is offered. As Senator, I will strongly resist this and any similar proposals.

David Leyonhjelm is the Liberal Democrats’ Senator-elect for NSW.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to David Leyonhjelm on data retention

  1. Rabz

    The potential for the abuse of this entirely unjustified extension of state power (i.e. unwarranted, intrusive, expensive and insecure surveillance) is reason enough for it not be granted.

    Which is why I think opposing it is pointless, as it will be implemented regardless. Just wait for the next ‘security’ panic to arise that will be considered reason enough for the state to blunder ahead with imposing it.

  2. cohenite

    If there were no muslims in the country would all this surveillance bullshit be justified? No. There you have it.

  3. David

    ..and the person in charge of all this information gathering will be Reichsfuehrer who[?]

    I doubt if the people proposing this gross intrusion into our private lives are even cognisant of the principles of policing which, incidentally, were promulgated by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Charles Rowan not Peel as indicated by Mr Leyonhjelm. Rowan adapted Sir John Moore’s principles for Officers of the Light Division for the purposes of policing.

  4. oldsalt

    Silly. Security agencies can’t return to ‘police work’ because they don’t do it, only police do. Police likewise don’t do Intelligence. Tendency to treat everyone as a potential crim exists in our police forces, not our security agencies. Metadata is important because all those who feel the need to encrypt their traffic already do so. Our authorities a greater threat than terrorists and criminals?? Who voted for this nut?

  5. Free Advice

    It might be fair if we the public were also allowed to access the content of these same government officials and agents phone calls, data and emails in case of collusion and criminal behavior by these public servants, as was the case with Lois Lerner at the IRS in America.
    But somehow I don’t think they would let us.

  6. Alfonso

    The NSW Primary Industry Dept, the Treasury, the EPA, the Dept of Education, the Dept of Lands don’t have their own militarised SWAT squads as in the US…. for use after the NSA data mining gets sorted presumably.
    The Land of the Free seems in deep statist doo doo.

  7. wreckage

    Yeah, because WITHOUT these powers, we keep getting bombed by Muslims!

    Think of the hundreds of incidents of domestic terrorism that have plagued this great nation every year, for as long as I can remember? Can you really say that basic freedoms are sacrosanct in the light of this ghastly reality?

    Again, given that Australia is notorious for, and rife with, ponzi and pyramid schemes of every kind, given that no foreign nation or fund dares park its dollars in the AUD for fear of imminent financial collapse – given this ongoing carnage in our financial institutions, how can you assert that SOMEHOW, all of this economic suffering and property loss counts for less than your SO-CALLED “privacy”?

    And how can any of you have failed to note the weekly, nay hourly, tribulations of our fearless secret police, hundreds of whom, every day, have to contend with and quell that one secessionist from Queensland who stays at home and doesn’t even own a gun? Who will stop him from whatever it is that he’s doing, probably blogging, if the authorities can’t rifle through every detail of your private life at will?

    LIBERTARIANS, YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR!

  8. Mayan

    It has recently emerged that the US is deciding to kill people (with drones &c) based on metadata alone.

  9. Free Advice

    Bottom line is that if you closely monitor anyones communications be they citizen, public servant, judge, prosecutor, politician, policeman, sports team owner or street sweeper sooner or later your gonna come up with dirt on that person, be it criminal behaviour or just plain old leftie racist, sexist, homophobic, comedy gold! Outrage for everyone. Love it, love it.

  10. Carpe Jugulum

    As Senator, I will strongly resist this and any similar proposals

    Damn straight brother, bring on the new senate.

  11. Those who believe they are our masters are out of control.
    Time for a reminder tug on the leash. A bloody big one.

  12. oldsalt

    Free Advice, you are correct re the problem of collusion. Corruption and cover-up occur across the spectrum and any agency which says it’s squeaky clean means it hasn’t been looking. Independent oversight is non existent and those senior enough to be able to use the resources of the State to protect themselves from investigation do so. Too-close cooperation between security agencies with traditionally different mandates is probably not in the public interest, the so-called inspectorate is a lame joke and AFP politicised. Not good, but still better than the alternative in which the crims and terrorists win. Anyway, we’ll be stuffed if too much focus on sigint means we allow our ability to do humint to atrophy.

  13. thefrollickingmole

    Im fine with this as long as every politican who votes for it is sureveiled 24/7 and charged and convicted for every breach of the laws they make us live under.

    Streamed live over the web 24/7, oh and their spouses and kids as well.

    Nothing to hide nothing to fear right chaps? You first.

  14. wreckage

    Im fine with this as long as every politican who votes for it is sureveiled 24/7 and charged and convicted for every breach of the laws they make us live under.

    Translated: NO! FUCK NO! NOT A CHANCE! NEVER! DEATH FIRST!

  15. thefrollickingmole

    wreckage

    Oh but we would bring the same bill back for a vote 12 months later. Any pollie convicted of so much as a litter fine would be ineligible to vote.
    Id confidently predict no-one who voted yes for the legislation would vote for it again.

    Might focus their minds on the useless strangleweed of laws infesting the country.

  16. philby

    I’d rather we had massive surveillance in place now before the lefties move even further from reality.

    As their climate/eco/religious/political extremism increases, eventually we’ll have violence and then we’ll have to track them all down.

    Let’s stay in practice for that day.

    It’s like having a peacetime army , they are stewards of the skills and tools we’ll need if we ever have to go to war.

    There may be casualties, unintended, and hurt feelings, but that’s acceptable in a way, since the complete lack of these skills and ability is unacceptable in this age.

    kim

  17. Tel

    Our authorities a greater threat than terrorists and criminals?? Who voted for this nut?

    Pick up a history book, and get back to me when you have done some reading.

  18. .

    It is quote simple.

    We are the principal, government is our agent.

    We tell them what to do unless we have been judged by our peers to lose that and other rights for a period of time.

    I believe in individual sovereignty, so policing and prosecution should go back to what the common law imposed in around 1900.

    I believe this may have a legal challenge to it ever adopted, forcing firms to keep this data may be considered civil conscription.

  19. boy on a bike

    Interesting how far we have come in the last 35 years. I was talking to a bloke who was a minister in the Fraser govt and he told me that when cabinet authorised new computer systems for the public sector such as the tax office and centrelink, they deliberately made them incompatible with each other to stop data sharing between agencies. They felt government was intrusive enough without some bureaucrat having all your details at their fingertips.

  20. To be stored, yes; but not to be revealed without a specific search warrant regarding the data relevant to a specific individual, and the penalties for revelation to the contrary to be very, very harsh.

  21. To be stored, yes; but not to be revealed without a specific search warrant regarding the data relevant to a specific individual, and the penalties for revelation to the contrary to be very, very harsh.

    Fuck off, dipshit… An absolute “NO!” to mandatory collection & storing! Do you have any idea of costs involved for this on part of ISP? And apparently it’s to be their job to secure it?

    People know it’s a bad idea, but if they start saying retarded shit like, “well, I guess it’s OK to store it”, then the battle is already lost.

    At the same time, proposals by internet providers to encrypt all internet data to protect the privacy of their customers have been met with howls of outrage from the same authorities, on the basis that it will make it more difficult to pry.

    Of course they do.

  22. Chris

    Wow a ldp policy I actually strongly agree with :-)

    Perturbed – I think in practice you just can’t enforce those sorts of rules. These proposed laws would require the ISPs to store the data. And they don’t have a good track record of keeping information secure. So not only will foreign governments have access to the metadata (convenient because Australian authorities can ask say USA agencies to get the data for them even if they are not permitted to do so themselves) but so will random people who break into their networks.

    The only way to ensure the data is not misused is to not keep it in the first place.

  23. JohnA

    Has anyone bothered to ask what the hell they are going to do with 70% of it?

    If you Google search for “spam proportion of emails” you will soon find that about 70% of emails are spam – and they want to archive two years’ worth??

    And who is going to hold the archive – the sending ISP, the receiving ISP, or some intermediate server hub (because that is a convenient point) – or heaven help us, all of them, because they are each in different jurisdictions?

    And regarding web pages, the Internet Archive aka The Wayback Machine already does that. So are they proposing to hold copies of pages viewed, or just the URLs? If the URLs they can grab the ISP logs which are compact text files. But woe betide if they want to hold copies of all the pages – if I view the same page twice (like a Catallaxy page after more comments are added) do they decide that two copies are to be saved?

    It will get to the stage that Isaac Asimov predicted (“Foundation and Earth”) where the data is so voluminous that it has to be encoded into the Moon’s surface.

  24. It will get to the stage that Isaac Asimov predicted (“Foundation and Earth”) where the data is so voluminous that it has to be encoded into the Moon’s surface.

    Oh, sci-fi discussion time already?

  25. Tel

    To be stored, yes; but not to be revealed without a specific search warrant regarding the data relevant to a specific individual, and the penalties for revelation to the contrary to be very, very harsh.

    Are we taking bets on how long before significant personal leaks end up on you-tube?

  26. Are we taking bets on how long before significant personal leaks end up on you-tube?

    Especially with each ISP (and their employees, etc) responsible for collection and secure storage. The ISP will take the fall and pay any of the aforementioned breach, naturally… Dem eeevil corporationz!

  27. pay any of the aforementioned penalties

    Sorry, I get garbled and incoherent when I’m pissed off

  28. MemoryVault

    I was talking to a bloke who was a minister in the Fraser govt and he told me that when cabinet authorised new computer systems for the public sector such as the tax office and centrelink, they deliberately made them incompatible with each other to stop data sharing between agencies.

    Yes, it was a lovely cover story – it is quite possible even many of the pollies of the day believed it.

    Truth is, while the individual systems were incompatible with each other (to lend credence to the cover story), they were all nonetheless connected via a mutually compatible database in Canberra. The system was initiated and built under the Fraser government, commissioned by the Hawke government, and expanded under the Keating, Howard and KRudd/Gillard governments.

    The data- matching facility was housed in a massive, fortified building that the grubbermint of the day tried to pass off as a local telephone exchange (Deakin Telephone Exchange). After its true purpose was first exposed in 1987, it was eventually renamed the National Computer Centre. Today it is known as the top security facility, the Deakin Defence Offices, in Kent Street, Deakin.

    Originally (circa 1982) the system cross-matched all state and federal data on everybody. By the mid to late 80′s it was possible to also track phone calls, telegrams etc. All this was fully exposed back in 1987-88 but I assume most of you were either too young, or too busy making money, to notice.

    Since then it has already been expanded to include all the data that the various govt agencies now say they want the internet service providers to collect. Why do they want ISPs to collect and save data the authorities already have? Because legally they are not supposed to have it, and so are very limited in how they can use it to stomp on people.

    Once it is collected “legally” by the ISPs it will be open slather for oppressive government.

    I’d close with something pithy like “don’t say you weren’t warned”, but since you were warned over a quarter of a century ago and chose to ignore it, all that’s left is for you to live with the consequences. It is far too late to do anything about it. Frankly, I surprised David even bothered writing about it.

  29. Armadillo

    I’d be more worried about criminals than law enforcement in relation to data retention. If you look at what they do, they are smarter than the average bear. If anything, there should be tighter privacy laws.

    Not meaning to ‘target’ a specific group, but I will use bike gangs as an example. Many of them (and their associates – family/friends) are employed in different industries. Sometimes in Government, sometimes in semi government.

    Everyone these days needs to have a few simple things. Somewhere to live, money, electricity, and a phone. These guys recognise that. If they want to find you, they will.

  30. Tel

    If the URLs they can grab the ISP logs which are compact text files.

    For about $20 per month (or less) you can get a virtual server in the country of your choosing (except Sealand which costs a lot more). There’s pretty much no way these server logs can be requested since the person in question also happens to be the person holding the logs.

    Hey, by the way that reminds me…

    Well-placed health union sources told The Saturday Age yesterday that industrial umpire Fair Work Australia and an external auditor of the union in 2008 had found in separate investigations that records for the period 2002 to 2007 had ”disappeared”.

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/thomson-records-missing-20110826-1jem5.html

    If a union can mysteriously lose five years worth of accounting records and no one at all be held responsible, are you telling me the average ISP is really going to keep every single bit of metadata? Really?

  31. Tel

    The ISP will take the fall and pay any of the aforementioned breach, naturally… Dem eeevil corporationz!

    Proprietary Limited buddy! Ready the fine print.

  32. Tel

    The data- matching facility was housed in a massive, fortified building that the grubbermint of the day tried to pass off as a local telephone exchange (Deakin Telephone Exchange). After its true purpose was first exposed in 1987, it was eventually renamed the National Computer Centre. Today it is known as the top security facility, the Deakin Defence Offices, in Kent Street, Deakin.

    The computing world is full of in jokes, they should have just kept on calling it the Deakin Telephone Exchange. Come to think of it they should have renamed all the “defense” forces as telephone exchanges.

  33. Rich

    What I’ve never understood is why do these people who want to log and read our private messages not consider opening all our letters and tapping all our phone calls?

    Those are the historic equivalents and it was never seriously considered, but now apparently it’s fine – the argument seems to be simply ‘because we can’

  34. Those are the historic equivalents and it was never seriously considered, but now apparently it’s fine – the argument seems to be simply ‘because we can’

    Seems similar on the surface, but not really. The amount of data we’re talking about here is much more vast given the number of interactions people have online. It’s getting to the point where every aspect of every second of our life will leave a digital trail.

  35. MemoryVault

    The computing world is full of in jokes,

    Glad you think it’s funny, Tel.
    No doubt you’ll be able to keep everybody laughing their faces off,
    on your way to the re-education camps.

  36. Tel

    Someone has to keep up morale!

    Besides, when the last thing I have left is my sense of humour, I won’t give that one up easily.

    Have you seen the signs at the airport, “Don’t you dare call our security a joke!”

  37. MemoryVault

    Have you seen the signs at the airport, “Don’t you dare call our security a joke!”

    You need to go to the airport?
    Check out your local primary school.

  38. Tel

    Been a while since I did the whole “hanging around a primary school” caper. I would guess some things have changed.

  39. MemoryVault

    Been a while since I did the whole “hanging around a primary school” caper.

    Obviously not a grandparent.
    It’s bad.

  40. Petros

    MemoryVault you have thrown in the towel already. Kudos to David for bringing it up. The ISPs can include a nice fat fee on their invoices to remind people how much it costs to keep the crap. An extra 50 bucks a month might be a bit of a vote loser for the Canberra scum.

  41. Ellen of Tasmania

    “It has been a year since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA.

    I appreciate what Snowden did. His decision to leak the stolen documents has done the conservative movement an enormous favor. It has blown to smithereens the greatest single myth of conservatism: “If the American people knew about this, there would be an uprising.” No, there wouldn’t.

    If exposure does come, and the public does nothing to thwart the hidden Bad Guys, then the Bad Guys no longer have to worry about further exposure. It will be old news. At this point, they can do even more to secure their position of power. The pressure blows over. There may be a time of bad publicity, but this does not change anything fundamental.

    The NSA is more powerful than ever. From now on, any further exposure is old news. …”

    (http://www.garynorth.com/public/12446.cfm)

  42. lem

    Yep, love it. Vote one LDP.

  43. PaulL

    Not only is it an intrusion on privacy, it won’t work. There’s no obligation to have your e-mail provided by your ISP – in fact many people have GMail. Does the Australian govt have the ability to require Google to retain these logs? Do they have the ability to subpoena them from Google? What about if I set up my own e-mail server on Amazon, or hosted in Kazakhstan? The reality is that the criminals will just move their e-mail offshore, so the only people caught by this rule would be the law abiding. What reason would the government have to require email records of the law abiding?

  44. MemoryVault

    The reality is that the criminals will just move their e-mail offshore, so the only people caught by this rule would be the law abiding.

    You are beginning to catch on.

    What reason would the government have to require email records of the law abiding?

    In a country where the people accept retrospective legislation, there is no such concept as “law abiding”. What is lawful today can be declared unlawful tomorrow, and backdated to yesterday. That Sir, makes you a criminal any time the grubbermint of the day requires it to be so.

  45. Tel

    In a country where the people accept retrospective legislation, there is no such concept as “law abiding”.

    Very true, but since the law has now become sufficiently complex that absolutely no one knows what it means anymore, even without needing retrospective legislation there’s generally something they can catch you on.

  46. MemoryVault

    Very true, but since the law has now become sufficiently complex that absolutely no one knows what it means anymore, even without needing retrospective legislation there’s generally something they can catch you on.

    Are you offering that as a defence of retrospective legislation?

Comments are closed.