Under new legislation that came into effect last week, internet and telecommunications providers are now required to keep your metadata – including phone calls, text messages and internet usage – for two years.
This is not the actual content of your communications – rather it’s the information surrounding it. So for a phone conversation, it’s who you called, how long you spoke for and where you were when you made the call.
This information will be available to 21 Government agencies to access on request without a warrant.
The scheme, announced by the Abbott Government in 2014, had been passed by Parliament back in March 2015, but providers were given up to 18 months to implement it – which is why it’s only being enforced now.
Big Brother is watching
Attorney-General George Brandis (shown in our says the data retention is essential for security agencies investigating terrorism, espionage and organised crime as well as investigating child abuse and child pornography offences that are often carried out online.
However, though terrorism is “overwhelmingly used” as the main reason for metadata retention, University of New South Wales research shows most of the data accessed relates to drug crimes, followed by property crimes and crimes against people.
The Government had been reviewing if metadata could also be made available to lawyers in civil court cases, such as divorce proceedings and child custody disputes.
Mr Brandis has now released a statement saying this won’t go ahead due to “insufficient reason”.
However, the review’s web page reveals that: “The Government will therefore not be making regulations to increase civil litigant access to retained data at this time.”
So that could change in the future.
Following our story about online privacy in the US here, we can’t help but ask – where do you draw the line?