May 2nd 2017
from the because-that’s-what-happens-with-data-retention dept
We’ve been talking about Australian politicians’ odd obsession with passing ever more draconian data retention rules for years now. As you may recall, the politicians pushing for this appeared to have absolutely no clue what it actually entailed. Just a few months ago, we wrote about reports about how Australia’s data retention laws had been abused to spy on journalists and their sources. While some parts of the law went into effect a year and a half ago, it appears some parts just went into effect a few weeks ago. These new rules require every ISP to retain metadata on all online communications for at least two years. And… it took just about two weeks before the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were forced to admit that it had used the info to spy on journalists (again). They insist this was a mistake, of course.
“Earlier this week, the AFP self-reported to the Commonwealth Ombudsman that we had breached the Telecommunications Interception Act. The breach … related to an investigator who sought and was provided access to the call records of a journalist without the prior authority of a journalist information warrant,” AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said on Friday afternoon.
“No investigational activity has occurred as a result of us being provided with that material. Put simply, this was human error. It should not have occurred, the AFP take this very seriously, and we take full responsibility for a breach in the Act. I also want to say there was no ill will, malice, or bad intent by the officers involved who breached the Act. Quite simply, it was a mistake that should not have happened.”
Even if this truly was an accident, it highlights why mandatory data retention is so dangerous. That information will be accessed, and not always for good reasons. There’s a reason why we don’t allow law enforcement to search our stuff willy nilly without a warrant, and mandatory data retention completely flips this whole concept on its head for no good reason. Such information will almost always be abused — and sometimes pretty damn quickly after it’s available.