ZDNet are reporting today that the Australian Federal Police are pushing the government to pursue aggressive mandatory data retention policies, forcing ISPs to collect information about your internet use and preserve it in case you are one day suspected of wrongdoing.

The article quotes AFP assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan as saying that they are pushing the Attorney-General's Department and other agencies to implement the new regime, the existence of which was revealed in June this year despite high secrecy. We have drawn attention to the worrying proposal in the past.

According to the article, the police say this explicitly "includes web searches and histories". Despite the incredibly sensitive nature of the information being sought, we have yet to hear an account of precisely what crimes this might help solve, or by what mechanisms it would do so.

As we wrote just yesterday, when your job is to stop criminals, other considerations apparently take a back seat to any measure that might help you accomplish that. But we rely on the government to balance the wider interests of the community. In this case, we worry they are derelict in their duty. With discussions occurring far away from the public eye, we have no assurance that privacy issues are being taken into account at all.

Indeed, today's article describes the policy as a balancing act between "what the private sector would like based on cost, and what we would like to do based on history and law enforcement capabilities". It's clear that the police want as much data as they can possibly get. If cost to ISPs is the only consideration, who is standing up for the rights of innocent users?

Stay tuned as this issue develops.


  1. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: we need end to end encryption as a default on the internet to make these kinds of fishing trips useless.

    A government that wants and allows this cannot be trusted. If we have the tools today to remove them from the equation, then why doesn't the EFA champion that instead of hoping that they'll suddenly develop ethics? Make data retention a useless pursuit and then it doesn't matter what the government keeps.

    Comment by Stuart on 7 September 2010 at 15:37
  2. This country is getting ridiculous in it's big brother power tripping. Just because a tiny percentile of the internet users in this country decide to misbehave and look at some pretty nasty shit, the rest of us need to be bundled up in the same catagory and given the same treatment? If the AFP did their job properly, instead of pissing around trying to get politicians and ISPs to do their job for them, there would be no need for invasive data retention. Besides, if one were to do something wrong in the future, then again, they should do their jobs, the one they are trained for. ISPs shouldn't be the internet police.

    Invasive data retention, filters and blacklists. What next?

    Comment by Rage Inc on 7 September 2010 at 19:19
  3. i think we should take action get up removed an electoral law through a constitutional challenge should data retention be enacted we should raise fuinds and challenge it in the high court under the right to privacy

    Comment by nick on 7 September 2010 at 23:17
    • That or just do what the swedish ISP's did, put all of their customers through a VPN there by making ALL of the data useless. Then going a step further and charging people for the right to not be running through a VPN.

      Comment by Vikeyev on 9 February 2011 at 05:43
  4. Over 22 million people in Australia and each one a potential criminal.

    Comment by Lindsay on 7 September 2010 at 23:39
  5. In all honesty, between the clowns currently running the show, and the clowns trying to oust them so that they can run it.. Let me hereby *volunteer* to be the first one against the wall when the Revolution comes.. I love Australia, but by the time these pseudo-proactive idiots are done with it, there's not going to be much room for Australians in the new state of Ameristralia.

    -One of 22 million potentials.

    Comment by William on 8 September 2010 at 12:24
  6. What next? Mandatory centralized retention of records of what newspapers we read, what television and movies we watch, and what library books we borrow?

    To quote Orwell: "Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull."

    Comment by Robert on 8 September 2010 at 17:04
  7. ...Forward to 1984 we go....

    Comment by John Applegate on 12 September 2010 at 15:44
  8. I wonder how much the copyright lobby will have to pay for access to this data.

    Comment by Dan on 12 September 2010 at 16:32
  9. This was the real reason for pushing the filter IMHO - it would have provided the base infrastructure for implementing this kind of madness, particularly the original dynamic filtering proposal.

    Comment by Simon on 12 September 2010 at 23:19