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Metadata not about 'big brother' watching you: AFP

Shahida Sweeney | Feb. 26, 2015
Australian Federal Police (AFP) assistant commissioner, Tim Morris, has moved to allay fears the government's metadata reforms will involve around-the-clock surveillance of citizens.

He added that Australia's metadata program is not built around "Hollywood fiction," or an imaginary concept of 24-hour surveillance.

There are an estimated 44 million IP connections, and law enforcement wants to investigate serious crime — without compromising citizen or business privacy.

Old boys club

According to Senator Scott Ludlam, Australia's metadata program has been canvassed since 2008. He told delegates that governments need to strike a balance between privacy and law enforcement needs.

He noted that this metadata program was crafted by an "old boys club" with input from the major political parties. "There's an uncritical acceptance of the rollout now."

Ludlam accused the administration of "doing sneaky things and demanding bi-partisanship. Moreover, the total costing has never been made public."

Digital white pages

He noted that no-one disputes the importance of metadata, but there are serious violations of privacy, and lack of clarity around the judicial oversight. "There're 580,000 metadata authorisations — the digital equivalent of opening up the white pages."

A senate judicial estimates committee is due to hand down its final finding on 27th February — drawing on community and industry feedback. "This involves more than a year's worth of work," Ludlum said.

If the bill is adopted in its current format, the cost of managing the metadata will send many ISPs "up the wall," Ludlam said.

There are concerns around the cost of running an expanded retention scheme — with telcos meeting the costs. The smaller ISP will be most affected, Ludlam said.

He added that new changes involve creating a brand new archive, to be mined and looked at, across domestic and international jurisdictions.

"This is dragging us down the path of surveillance dystopia," Ludlam warned.


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