This is an important victory.
Had the government allowed even a limited expansion of access, it would almost certainly have been just the first of a number of such expansions.
It's also heartening to see that, despite running over the Christmas-New Year period, the government's consultation received 262 submissions, including 217 from individuals.
All but "a small number" of these submissions were opposed to any expansion in access.
This is a significant number of submissions to a consultation that was clearly intended to slip under the radar. We hope that the guidance we published helped some of those people with their submissions.
You can read here the report of this review that was tabled in parliament.
But, the fight against warrantless mass surveillance is far from over.
There is nothing to stop this or any future government deciding to give civil litigants access to data that is only retained for the purposes of the data retention scheme in the future.
Any such expansion could open up whole new troves of data for all sorts of civil actions including copyright enforcement cases, divorce/property settlements and employment disputes.
We're lobbying federal MPs and Senators to bring forward the review of the data retention legislation - it's currently due to be commenced in April 2019. As part of that, we're also pushing for:
- a universal warrant requirement for access to data (currently warrants are only required when a journalist's data is requested);
- no expansion in the restricted list of 22 agencies that are currently able to request data; and,
- a reduction in the retention period for data from the current two years to no more than six months.
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