AFP reports data sharing with Russia, China

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AFP reports data sharing with Russia, China

Overdue TIA Act report reveals highest ever metadata access.

The Attorney-General's department has disclosed for the first time a list of countries the federal police provided with stored telecommunications data on Australian citizens, as local metadata access soars.

In its latest annual report of law enforcement agencies' use of the Telecommunications and Interception Act [pdf] - which was today tabled seven months late without explanationthe AGD reported the number of times the Australian Federal Police handed data to foreign countries skyrocketed in 2013-14.

It also for the first time named the countries the data was provided to.

Under the TIA Act, law enforcement agencies are able to request phone, internet and location data on Australians from telcos without requiring a warrant.

The AFP made 19 requests to telcos for historical information to "enforce the criminal law of a foreign country" over the year to June 2014, the report revealed.

It handed over 17 data disclosures to 14 foreign countries as a result.

That list included China, Russia, Poland, Sri Lanka and Singapore, among a number of others in the European Union and elsewhere.

The figure represents a significant increase on the five authorisations made for non-content data to undisclosed foreign countries in the previous year .

Notable absentees from the list included Australia's five eyes partners - the UK, US, New Zealand and Canada.

The AGD has been contacted for comment on why it has chosen to publish the list of countries for the first time.

The AFP is required under the TIA Act to report on non-content data disclosures made to other countries for enforcement of their law.

Metadata requests continue to climb

Locally, a total of 77 Australian government agencies accessed telecommunications non-content data 349,820 times without a warrant over the year for the purpose of enforcing criminal law, imposing a pecuniary penalty, protecting public revenue or to locate a missing person.

The figure is a significant increase on the 331,999 authorisations made in the year prior.

NSW Police again topped the list with the highest requests at 111,889, with Victoria Police in second place at 63.325 and Queensland Police with 35,663.

Since scrutiny on the practice began increasing in 2013, the Attorney-General's Department has begun highlighting case studies on the use of warrantless metadata in its reports.

In one example it highlighted how the use of data related to an IP address identified a telco subsciber and their location, which gave the AFP enough information to obtain a search warrant and discover a "large volume of child pornography material and information indicating possible abuse" which later lead to the person's arrest.

In another it detailed how Victoria Police had been able to gain enough evidence to arrest a person suspected of fire-bombing another's car - evidence the force had not previously been able to collect.

The number of metadata requests made by Australian law enforcement agencies is expected to climb in the coming years as a result of the government's mandatory data retention law for telecommunications providers.

The obligation to store non-content data of customers for two years will kick in from October 13th, but carriers are able to apply for an 18 month extension to prepare their systems for the changes.

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