Why do government agencies want your metadata?

Government agencies still trying to access metadata.

Following new legislation, the Federal Government has released the names of 61 agencies that have reapplied for the right to access the metadata of Australian citizens without their consent.

Sixty-one non law-enforcement federal and state agencies, including Australia Post and the Taxi Services Commission, have applied to access Australians’ metadata for the purposes of tracking criminal activity or protecting public revenue.

Metadata includes information such as phone numbers and the addresses of people in contact with each other, email addresses and message send times. It doesn’t include the actual content of messages.

When Telstra released its first annual Transparency Report in 2014, it was revealed that government agencies and policing bodies accessed 84,949 Telstra customer records without warrants.

In October last year, new legislation came into effect stating that Australians will have two years of their metadata stored by phone and internet providers. Previously, government agencies had automatic access to citizens’ information. Now, they must apply for approval to the Attorney-General's Department.

Before the legislation came into place, Attorney-General George Brandis said the data retention scheme, which will cost the Government up to $400 million per year, was required to ensure national security and combat terrorists’ use of technology. However, the legislation aroused mass objection from privacy regulation bodies and many Australians and continues to be a topic of contention.

Digital rights group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) claims that very few agencies would have legitimate reason to access the private information. EFA is pressing Mr Brandis to reject the majority of applications.

“If the Attorney-General is serious about the integrity of his legislation and about protecting the civil liberties of all Australians, then he must act swiftly to reject the majority of these applications,” Executive Director of EFA Jon Lawrence said.

The list of government agencies seeking approval was revealed to the public on Monday, thanks to former EFA vice-chair Geordie Guy.

Mr Brandis is yet to approve any of the agencies.

You can see the full list below, except for four that were removed due to their disclosure being “contrary to the public interest”.

Read more at www.theage.com.au

Opinion: As long as we’re clear

When it comes to organisations gaining access to citizens’ private information it isn’t a matter of if but why.

Under the new legislation where applications must be approved first, I’m fine with federal and state agencies being able to collect relevant personal information – particularly when it comes to national security. Of course, they won’t learn much from trawling through my recent browser history or my phone records to see I’ve called my best friend Carina three times today.

But as the adage goes, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear.

What I do struggle to understand is why some other organisations are on the list. Racing and Wagering Western Australia and Greyhound Racing Victoria have both lodged applications to access Australians’ metadata. Their access requests presumably fall under the category of protecting public revenue rather than tracking criminal activity. Surely, these organisations already have resources to tell them the gambling habits of Australians – so I’m curious why they need our metadata.

The bottom line is that if an agency wants to see my personal information and know my identity, then their motive should be clear. If they can apply to have access to my metadata then I should be allowed to apply to see exactly what information they want to access. I think that’s fair.

What about you? Do you think it’s fair for federal and state agencies to be allowed access to your information? Do you feel it’s an invasion of privacy or a justified request? And how do you feel about organisations that have no role in international security, such as sporting and betting bodies, being able to apply for it?

These are the non law-enforcement federal and state agencies currently seeking approval:

1. Australian Financial Security Authority, Commonwealth

2. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), Commonwealth

3. Australian Postal Corporation, Commonwealth

4. Australian Taxation Office, Commonwealth

5. Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, Commonwealth

6. Civil Aviation, Safety Authority (CASA), Commonwealth

7. Clean Energy Regulator, Commonwealth

8. Department of Agriculture, Commonwealth

9. Department of Defence (ADFIS and IGD), Commonwealth

10. Department of the Environment, Commonwealth

11. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Commonwealth

12. Department of Health, Commonwealth

13. Department of Human Services, Commonwealth

14. Department of Social Services, Commonwealth

15. Fair Work Building and Construction, Commonwealth

16. National Measurement Institute, Commonwealth

17. ACT Revenue Office, ACT

18. Access Canberra (Department of Treasury and Economic Development), ACT

19. Bankstown City Council, NSW

20. Consumer Affairs, VIC

21. Consumer, Building and Occupational Services (Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading – Department of Justice), TAS

22. Consumer and Business Services, SA

23. Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, QLD

24. Department of Commerce, WA

25. Department of Corrective Services, WA

26. Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, QLD

27. Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources (Fisheries), VIC

28. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, VIC

29. Department of Environment Regulation, WA

30. Department of Fisheries, WA

31. Department of Justice and Regulation (Consumer Affairs), VIC

32. Department of Justice and Regulation (Sheriff of Victoria), VIC

33. Department of Mines and Petroleum, WA

34. Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), NSW

35. Environment Protection Authority, SA

36. Greyhound Racing Victoria, VIC

37. Harness Racing New South Wales, NSW

38. Health Care Complaints Commission, NSW

39. Legal Services Board, VIC

40. NSW Environment Protection Authority, NSW

41. NSW Fair Trading, NSW

42. Office of Environment & Heritage, NSW

43. Office of Fair Trading (Department of Justice And Attorney-General Office of the Director General), QLD

44. Office of State Revenue, NSW

45. Office of State Revenue, QLD

46. Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner, VIC

47. Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), SA

48. Queensland Building and Construction Commission, QLD

49. Racing and Wagering Western Australia, WA

50. Racing NSW, NSW

51. Racing Queensland, QLD

52. Roads and Maritime Services NSW, NSW

53. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), VIC

54. State Revenue Office, VIC

55. Taxi Services Commission, VIC

56. RevenueSA, SA

57. Victorian WorkSafe Authority, VIC


    To make a comment, please register or login
    20th Jan 2016
    The Govt can find out anything about my metadata, they're welcome to it.... does not concern me in the least. ...ha ha ha. They most likely know lots about folks anyway, and they might learn something from me. So....GO FOR IT
    20th Jan 2016
    My sentiments exactly, those of us with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. It's only those that are on the shady side of things that have any reason to be concerned, those that are trying to fiddle the ATO or Centrelink etc.

    20th Jan 2016
    Go for it. Nothing to hide.
    20th Jan 2016
    This would just open another door that is already wide open !!!! for terrified abused women and children that are already at risk.
    20th Jan 2016
    Would you care to elaborate on how that is going to happen?
    22nd Jan 2016
    I shouldn't need to elaborate on this however with so many organistions wanting more access to peoples personal data it would provide more opportunities for perpetrators to find specific data for example addresses.
    20th Jan 2016
    Given the long long list of agencies who are able to access your data it is a no brainer that there WILL be an employee in one of those agencies who will on sell data illegally. Not even a maybe!
    This sort of legislation was banned in America recently after uproar from the public. I suggest it will be fair game in Australia where the rights of citizens have been under attack for some time with the biggest offender being the right wing governments in recent times.
    20th Jan 2016
    MICK, SCRUB THIS BIT " biggest offender being the right wing governments in recent times."
    Then your spot on with the rest of your comment.
    20th Jan 2016
    Funny you should say that Mick, I was thinking exactly the same thing. And if a 'man' who beats his wife who has had cause to leave him, he will be able to find out exactly where she is living and to whom she has been corresponding. But why would the dept of fisheries want our data, and the Clean energy regulator,
    National measurement institute, ??. This list needs refining.
    20th Jan 2016
    My understanding is that the Abbott government WANTED this legislation. The claim was that it was a matter of "national security". Many political commentators have thrown water on that one so the question remains: WHY?
    Oldman Roo
    20th Jan 2016
    mick , you are 100 % correct with your concern . I have had reason to suspect confidential information was sold unscrupulously to agencies on 2 occasions and my trust in allowing any information to be shared with any agencies or Government Departments is just a straight out NO . I can understand that Abbott wanted this legislation , it did suit his style of Big Brother Government .
    20th Jan 2016
    2016 is setting off in a most mysterious way as it has me agreeing with mick. I am not against storage of metadata in the way it was originally explained but if it discloses personal information I'm absolutely opposed.

    Is everyone aware of how to hide your ISP address? Google 'proxy sites' and use one of those to do your surfing. It allows your address to be backgrounded and a new ISP address will be produced from another country.
    21st Jan 2016
    okay i can understand for all those doing shifty things, data can be obtained so as to rein in those norty buggers,but for those that have become victims of violence to be tracked down and given grieve is sooooo Unfair. now many of the above listed, why do they need our data, and or even the EPA..... i would say NO they don't need it. And it should only be given to Law inforcement, where needed to control criminal activity.
    21st Jan 2016
    Securing your email address could be the start of a flood of unwanted attention
    20th Jan 2016
    The Government departments already have all they need to crucify anyone they choose to. The currently desired metadata will be passed in to law any way. I have nothing to hide until political correctness outlaws Christianity. Hopefully, I will be gone by then but feel for the next generation. Australia, no matter which party has power, is ruled by the UN.
    20th Jan 2016
    Christianity will win for they can't stop the Lord, nor his gospel, they've been at it for 2000 years and always failed... amen
    20th Jan 2016
    It's not about the 'Lord', it's about acting in a Christian like way. I don't believe in a deity but you can have faith that if I can help you I will and I will be respectful.
    20th Jan 2016
    Organised Christianity has been perpetrated by misfits, power psychotics, perverts and the socially challenged since Constantine. They don't need metadata. They just need to get hold of kids before they reach seven years of age to have them believing in the prevailing doctrine. As the bishop said to his lackey, "Give me a kid till the age of seven and I'll give you a believer." Of course, we have found out that by giving mastery over kids by some of our religious perverts leads to much worse. Giving over our metadata is much more benign.
    CEO, Internet Australia
    20th Jan 2016
    If these "fringe agencies" need to access people's data they can go to the Federal Police, or their local police force, and ask them to do the accessing for them They should be required to have a very good reason though.

    If this subject interests you please read this...

    20th Jan 2016
    And there's the rub. THEY WANT TO DO AWAY WITH COURT ORDERS. Then they can abuse the privilege.
    20th Jan 2016
    Yes - any 'approved' organisation, Gauleiter, Kommissariat, Ken's Black Guard... you name it... will just be able to say .... "I'm the government - surely MY rights supercede those of the general populace - and I can be trusted beyond words!"

    “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, "whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection," and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

    ? John Adams

    'The power of government is abused and directed to an end for which it is not constituted when employed to promote rather than to detect crime and to bring about the downfall of those who, left to themselves, might well have obeyed the law. Human nature is weak enough and sufficiently beset by temptations without government adding to them and generating crime'.
    Justice Felix Frankfurter, US Supreme Court.

    'Whenever we leave principles and clear positive laws we are soon lost in the wild regions of imagination and possibility where arbitrary power sits upon her brazen throne and governs with an iron scepter' .
    - John Adams, 2nd President of the United States.

    (If) Watergate taught us nothing else, it did teach there is no greater threat to society than illegal abuse of power by those sworn to uphold the law.
    New York Times editorial, October 3 1974.

    'The more I go down amongst the ways of Men, the less human I become'.
    Marcus Aurelius.

    20th Jan 2016
    You saved me some work - I posted that list on another forum and would have had to dig it up again.

    I have nothing to hide from metadata collection - if anything my often radical thoughts expressed are MORE radical just to keep the bone collectors on their toes - if we ever come to a society where your anti-government views mean your democratic rights vanish and you are gulaged - I will go to war. Simple.

    Thus I provoke them at every turn.

    That said - I see no reason why any dissenting or unpopular view should in any way be cause for sanction by these bone collectors - and thus I see absolutely no reason why the vast majority of these organisations should be given access to that data.

    They have ZERO need for it unless they are proposing to be a part of a totalitarian state.

    Only those organisations with a genuine interest in national and internal security should have access to metadata - and those are not necessarily ones you would trust anyway. Access to metadata should be severely restricted - not just open slather for every self-imagining little Hitler or Stalin in some pissant operation somewhere.

    Buggar 'em!
    20th Jan 2016
    How come Woolworths, Coles and McDonalds are not on the list???
    20th Jan 2016
    Because you gave them permission?
    20th Jan 2016
    By the looks of things 'MASTERS' won't be either ha ha ha
    20th Jan 2016
    Well if you use Credit Card or a rewards card Woollies and Coles know every thing you do anyway.

    Make me laugh when some say --"go for it I have nothing to hide"
    so I suppose you have NO blinds or curtains no locks on your doors and allow anyone to look at your bank accounts and letters and emails you send. Because that much the same thing I also have nothing to hide but I like my privacy and I like to THINK (ha ha) that my things are private.

    The powers that be run around calling TERROR TERROR to try and keep us all in line by using that to bring in BIG BROTHER, if a person can not see that then they are quite stupid.
    20th Jan 2016
    I believe that my comments to my wife every time I went in to a Masters store was "this lot are going to close down". Who'd want to own Woolworths shares.
    20th Jan 2016
    Plan B the people who aren't bothered by this legislation aren't stupid, it's just an indication they don't jump at every shadow, are law abiding citizens and have nothing to fear from any government scrutiny. Those that are against something like this are the stupid ones, they worry about terrorist acts but when the government takes steps to reduce that threat they get all antsy, jumping up and down and crying their civil liberties are being impinged upon.
    20th Jan 2016
    I think we all have to worry about the gradual erosion of our liberties. Americans recently rejected this legislation. Australians should do the same.
    I also have nothing to hide. If the cretins who want this get it through then next thing they'll be in your bedroom wanting 'statistics'....
    20th Jan 2016
    Not many of these agencies have anything at all to do with fighting terrorism. This is truly 1984 and it is all about power. These poor, badly potty trained politicians suffer from anal squeeze. They would be better spending their money (our money) psychological counselling for tight-arsed psychopathy - it's a new condition in DSM5.
    20th Jan 2016
    This is approx 1983 give or take a few years either way.
    20th Jan 2016
    Hey Rowena, just as well you are on this forum and not anything else....most people have no idea what you are talking about when you saying "truly 1984".....they think "Big Brother" is that stupid house voice on reality TV.....
    20th Jan 2016
    Each of these agencies should be required to publish their reasons for wanting to access metadata.
    Tom Tank
    20th Jan 2016
    How naïve some people can be.
    Just because they think they have nothing to hide then it won't affect them.
    Allowing all these organisations access to Metadata is throwing away all privacy rights which have taking generations to secure.
    I have real concerns over the Metadata issue for any organisation, read 1984 by George Orwell, but for the RSPCA to have unfettered access is ridiculous.
    If security services and police have access to Metadata then all other organisations should only be able to apply to them in specific instances after receiving permission from a Court of Law.
    We are throwing away our freedoms as well as privacy which is really telling IS and al Queda you have secured a great victory over Australia and its people.
    20th Jan 2016
    So darn right Tom, bloody false flags etc just to get weapons off the people etc and bring in martial law
    20th Jan 2016
    Thank god for Wee Johnnie and The Gun Laws - otherwise the people would be taking pot shots at politicians every time they went past........
    20th Jan 2016
    I've still got mine! Legal though.
    20th Jan 2016
    Seems to me that METADATA is having the same effect on some folks as METAMUCIL
    20th Jan 2016
    With the exception of about 4 of the agencies on the list (those that could potentially track money trails) I see no good reason for any others to have even thought about making an application. Bankstown Council?? RSPCA??? For sure there is absolutely no national security reason for any of the racing organisations (unless they suspect the horses are some kind of terrorist), environmental or consumer affairs departments, taxi services and so on.

    So the question remains, why do these agencies and organisations want access to this metadata? Their justification for their applications should also be made public.
    20th Jan 2016
    Once your details are in the public domain you are open to hacking and identity fraud. Not a pretty picture.
    Polly Esther
    20th Jan 2016
    yes mick, just ask Travis Cloke and Dane Swan.
    Swany proved he has a few inches more to tattoo, oh how I giggled.
    20th Jan 2016
    I dont think people realise two things: 1) this data is incredibly intrusive, and drags in everyone (people communicating) whether of interest or not- and credit and no fly lists etc etc algorithms specifically search for 'probable associations'. this multiples the dangers- even if kept within each body.. and there is no 'right to be forgotten' so it will persist and build up indefinetely whether they say-especially if a flag by association/group/demographic is estimated/predicted/added by accident-then it WILL be kept.
    2. these data sources will be THE target for black hackers (God sed us more whte hakers we NEED you)
    20th Jan 2016
    Only Council listed is the Bankstown City Council, NSW.
    And, despite all their assurances, it's meGadata, not metadata that they are accessing.
    All the different Racing bodies listed want your meGadata prior to the start of events so they can decide if they want you to win or not.
    Why do you think so many horse races are delayed, at the start, after you have been told they are about to jump and have been duped into placed your bet?
    20th Jan 2016
    why is racing agencies on it
    20th Jan 2016
    Perhaps the Govt thinks Phar Lap is really still alive?
    20th Jan 2016
    I imagine they are interested in money laundering and other illegal activities, but there is absolutely no reason for them to have access to data prior to the event.
    20th Jan 2016
    Phar Lap was US President in the Eighties... from memory....
    20th Jan 2016
    You're right, I think he was President No.36.
    Unfortunately, they misjudged his arsenic dose and he died in office.
    20th Jan 2016
    Thank goodness. I thought my wife might be on the list but she's not. I really don't care about the rest.
    20th Jan 2016
    What's she been up to?
    20th Jan 2016
    Its very instructive to see how lightly people are taking this on this website-I am beginning to see how politicians (and now their public servants) have so swiftly moved themselves beyond any vestige of accountability-and increased their power over the community. perhaps all the microdata on all the people we are connected with is an OnWater Operational Matter? Or are they all going to use faceBook profiling methods on us and all the people we know?

    This is NOT about just YOU- its abut anyone you communicate with...

    At the very least the Case for such access shouldbe published by the bodies concerned

    I loved the Marcus Aurelius quote.. just for once he expressed a point of view even better than Marcus Tullius Cicero, my favorite Roman orator..oh ddo approriate...
    20th Jan 2016
    And that's the rub. Just like the mythical unicorn playing games as the rest of the critters marched onto the Arc so too people are taking this issue lightly........until it becomes law and they are abused for expressing dissent with the current government. This is a nightmare waiting to happen but currently not on the horizon. Anybody who thinks otherwise does not understand how ordinary people are so easily done over.
    The Bronze Anzac
    20th Jan 2016
    Most of the ID information I believe required could easily be in the form of an official, compulsory ID Card for all persons over a particular age. The card would be in the form of a micro chipped encrypted, photo, & fingerprinted card. The information would include: Full Name, Address, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Blood Group, Organ Donor Details, Medical Conditions, Vaccination Details, Tax File Number, Centrelink Details, Driver Licence Details, Other Licences Details, Recorded Criminal History, Passport Details, Visa Details, Air Travel Details etc, etc. Just think of all the BENEFITS this single card could be applied for. The only persons objecting to this National ID Card would be people who have something to hide.
    20th Jan 2016
    Just go for the microchip and tattoo barcode backup at birth.......
    20th Jan 2016
    .. and you're wrong - most people - I believe - who oppose it do so on the grounds that they don't want some faceless public servant deciding on their life...

    The NAZIs had a good shot at that..... look where it got them..... not that the Stalin lot are any better.. if anything worse since they cloak themselves in the fine raiment of 'service' to the people....
    fish head
    20th Jan 2016
    I hope you are not serious about this!At least at present identity thieves have to work for their info. They would think all their Christmases had come at once with that bonanza of information.
    Tom Tank
    20th Jan 2016
    A National Identity Card was proposed by a former ALP Government but the LNP howled it down because of it's invasion of people's freedom and privacy.
    Interesting isn't it.
    20th Jan 2016
    Perfect Bronze Anzac. Identity thieves will love you...and you need to be their first target.
    The Bronze Anzac
    23rd Jan 2016
    Around 90% of all respondents on various forums on various subjects, are always negative to change. They are always the minority. And its always the minority that make the most noise. Ho Hum.
    20th Jan 2016
    Ok so what can we do about this? Are there any means to dispute at least some of these applications? We can moan as much as we like....what can we actually do?!
    20th Jan 2016
    If readers give a damn, and I suspect it's too much trouble to care, then write to the media (several) and write to your local member as well as opposition (currently Labor). The powers that be need to understand that they are on the Titanic. That is why organisations like GetUp are so successful: politicians fear it when a large number of voters intend to derail their plans.
    20th Jan 2016
    Power to the people Mick.
    20th Jan 2016
    That is how it works. As I always say 'we deserve the government we get'.
    Pass the Ductape
    21st Jan 2016
    'But as the adage goes, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear'...... That's what a great many Jews thought prior to W.W.2.

    The only problem I have with it, is that no-one knows what is just around the corner.
    21st Jan 2016
    I think they might nod off when reading my file
    21st Jan 2016
    I have nothing to hide either as I do nothing that's illegal. However I still do not like total strangers knowing my private life. Who I contact. What organisations I contact. That's my business. The Americans did not tolerate this type of intrusion and neither should we.
    21st Jan 2016
    The biggest problem with metadata collection is FALSE POSITIVES.
    Many in the USA have been wrongly arrested. Seemingly harmless and simple data on your part and your family and friends using the phone or web can be wrongly correlated into a seemingly credible threat.
    The FBI with a armed SWAT team raised a family in Boston because one person was using the web for looking at garden fertilizer (used in some bombs) another was their son at university was looking at Islam for his studies and the dad was buying on line pipes for some home plumbing.
    The other bigger problem is LACK OF TRUE POSITIVES. Hundreds of billions of dollars was spent over the last 10 years by the NSA snooping on everybody in the USA, phone and data.
    This massive meta data collection has resulted in just 37 arrests with potential threats.
    A mere 10 billion dollar per suspect! Way to Go NSA!
    Biggest local problem: The Australia meta data will be stored at the local office of your internet supplier. What could possible go wrong with using UNSECURED web sites for storing your and all Australian's metadata? Lots of things could go wrong.
    (1) For the guilty paying some local IT guy to tamper with the evidence data to wipe their (bad) metadata records. (2) Tampering and Implanting false meta data records that might send another person wrongly to jail. Trickier to do but their are many geeks worldwide who can do this complex trick for a fee.
    The first court challenge and aborted trial about the use of unsecure private servers for a suspects metadata records as "evidence" will make us the laughing stock of the world.

    I have written about this metadata stupidity many times to our PMs and minister of Justice who sadly like the majority of politicians and their clueless advisors are computer security illiterates.
    The PM and Justice minister have simply ignored these dangers and the waste of money, futility and potential wrongness of meta data collection that will spare the criminals and impact many 100% innocents.
    And for those who say simply "collect I do no wrong" are so very wrong in trusting a flawed and know broker social/legal experiment. I do so hope you will not be wrongly brought to trial and jailed because of FALSE POSITIVES.
    22nd Jan 2016
    If you're clean and have no criminal record, nothing to hide why worry? On the other hand it's scary to think what these companies can do to your ID. Still, it's an invasion of privacy and we are now an open book! Before computers came out, everyone had more privacy than now. The only way to keep that is NOT HAVE A COMPUTER!
    25th Jan 2016
    Just waiting fo the Government ( be it liberal or labor ) telling us that in the interests of national security that we all must have a microchip implant.

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