Feds launch online privacy inquiry

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Feds launch online privacy inquiry

Data retention plans under investigation.

Public and private sector data collection and breaches are under investigation in a Senate Inquiry into online privacy, launched yesterday.

The Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts has been charged with investigating the adequacy of Australian online privacy protections.

The inquiry follows increasing public concern about changes to Facebook's privacy settings and Google's collection of WiFi payload data. The latter is also being investigated by the Australian Privacy Commissioner.

Government agencies, including the Attorney-General's Department, will also be probed about their plans to adopt data retention laws similar to the European Directive on Data Retention.

The inquiry was raised in Parliament by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who intends to continue driving debate as a member of the committee.

"It is time the Parliament took a proper look at the degree to which the privacy of Australians online is being eroded by governments and corporations alike," Ludlam said.

"Importantly, it's [the inquiry] going to allow us to have a proper look at Government plans to compel ISPs to collect the web browsing history of all Australians, for purposes which are not at all clear."

Chaired by Liberals Senator Mary Jo Fisher, the committee is expected to report on its findings by 20 October.

It is currently accepting submissions of facts, opinions, arguments or recommendations from the industry and public.

The Pirate Party today told iTnews today that it intends to make a submission to the inquiry.

Last month, the party warned the public of "Orwellian" law enforcement surveillance powers, following reports that the law enforcement agency CrimTrac was to track people with CCTV facial recognition.

Party Secretary Rodney Serkowski echoed Ludlam's concerns about the EU Directive, warning of "an unprecedented shift of power into the hands of law enforcement".

"Indiscriminate, dragnet-style retention of data is something we do not want to see in Australia," he said.

"Ultimately, with adequate checks and balances, many law enforcement-related laws would be fine, however we believe this is rarely the case."

Serkowski said the Pirate Party was also concerned about the Government's e-Health direction, social networking and the internet filtering proposal, which he said may result in a Government-imposed brand of morality in every Australian household.

The Attorney-General's Department declined to comment on the inquiry, stating: "We would not want to pre-empt any submissions to the inquiry."

Earlier this month, the Department confirmed that it had been consulting with the industry about data retention laws for 11 years, but that parties to the talks have been under non-disclosure agreement.

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