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Metadata not about 'big brother' watching you

Shahida Sweeney | Feb. 26, 2015
Metadata analysis is critical for criminal investigations and does not impact citizens who have nothing to hide, says AFP assistant commissioner, Tim Morris.

To date, the AFP said it would contribute $1 million to the cost. "We will offset reasonable cost through additional government funding," Morris said.

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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