THE government has been trying to push the ability to keep our metadata for two years, claiming it’s necessary for national security.

Critics argue that this would be a massive privacy breach, but the government believes it is necessary to protect Australia.

A recent Essential poll has shown that around 40 per cent of Australians support the introduction of the new metadata laws, while 44 per cent do not.

Most of the concern surrounds people’s privacy, particularly with two years worth of data being stored on multiple servers, with some in Asia. Even Telstra has labelled the storage of the data as a “honey pot for hackers.”

But how do the people that actually are responsible for using and acting upon information found within the metadata feel about the problem?

The picture metadata can paint.

The picture metadata can paint.

Speaking on Radio National’s Download This Show, one police insider revealed the flaws in the proposed system.

The insider, whose identity wasn’t revealed, has worked for the police dealing with metadata for years.

“There are only three different justifications (where) we have to access metadata; if someone’s life is being threatened, protection of government income, and (an) investigation of a crime punishable with at least two years in prison,” he said.

However, crimes punishable by two years jail can be for things as little as graffiti, meaning that more often than not, those investigating a criminal case will have access to metadata.

“Hypothetically, you and your wife split up after a particularly violent fight. She gets a ‘no contact’ order from the court. You in a fight of love-filled remorse call to tell her how sorry you are. Both on mobiles. She calls police. They ask me to grab the needed info. I grab her number, known from the police report and check with a mega simple system that’s filled with the data that she signed up to at the telco store on day one. I then grab the reverse call records to show you called her, then I check your outgoing calls on you. I then can prove a phone you’re subscribed to called a phone she subscribed to.”

What we know so far.

What we know so far.Source:The Australian

So what’s the difference between what he can do now and after the new legislation goes through?

“This new legislation would only allow me search two years back. Right now there’s inconsistent data held by each of the telecommunication companies, it’s the only difference. Basically your phone bill, plus the numbers and the times of people calling you. It’s never the content of text or voice. Content needs a warrant.”

He also acknowledged why telcos and internet providers aren’t keen on the program, claiming it’s going to cost them big time — and it’s data needed by police, not the telcos themselves. The extra cost will likely be pushed back onto consumers.

“Mobile data f***ed the police big time. Telcos don’t usually hold the mobile broadband of what websites you’re accessing on your phone. Why would they? They don’t care what you look at. Mandatory data retention forces ISPs and telcos to hold data they don’t need for times that are irrelevant to their purposes.

A good analogy is asking a library to keep a history on their systems of who borrowed a book. [The library] don’t care. They want to know who HAS a book; but that information is only required until it’s returned. Data retention would force them to keep that info for two years.

Just the name of the book and the borrower, not the words of the book.”

Following the government’s recent tirade on attempting to curb piracy in Australia, there’s also the concern by many people that the new laws could be used to monitor users internet habits to find people pirating content.

The insider confirmed that as it currently stands, the laws wouldn’t allow it, but we’re just one rich political backer away from all that changing.

“[Pirating] is not interpreted by police at the moment as a crime. Copyright infringement is not a criminal offence, it’s a civil wrong. But all it would take would be lobbying by a financial backer of a political parties to make copyright seen as theft and then bang, you’ve got all these Aussies caught up criminally.”

What happens if a server storing our data gets breached?

What happens if a server storing our data gets breached?Source:Getty Images

Ideally, the insider believes that two years would be okay, with very basic information like his phone bill be stored. But there should be no retrospective access if laws change, like torrenting for example. He also believes that the crime threshold should be lifted to an offence punishable by ten years jail, easily covering offences like terrorism and serious or organised crime, which the government claims the laws are aimed at.

Scarily though, his biggest concerns surround the reporting and legitimacy of access

“We currently report the number of requests. But not the number or types of request made. Eg, 4 by Twitter and 60,000 call charge records. Raising the standard for access is also needed. Never was a request denied for legitimacy. I want a magistrate or totally legitimate party to authorise the request with more detail.

Right now It would be so easy for me to slip my ex girlfriend’s number in the current process under any investigation. No one would pick it up because there is no detail.”

As it stands, it’s still not clear what data the government wants to keep, a concrete cost and even what it means for journalists and their sources.

It’s then pretty fitting for him to claim that, “The Australian people are being sleepwalked into a system the Attorney-General can’t even articulate.”

Cartoonist: John Farmer (Polly). Picture: Hobart Mercury.

Cartoonist: John Farmer (Polly). Picture: Hobart Mercury.


By Adam