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.