Why do government agencies want your 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
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