Data retention stalls at committee level

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Data retention stalls at committee level

Updated: IIA welcomes AG's appointment.

The Australian Government’s controversial data retention proposal looks to have stalled at the committee review level following the appointment of a new Attorney-General and the announcement of an election date.

Outgoing Attorney-General Nicola Roxon was known for her hawkish views when it came to data retention but her replacement, Mark Dreyfus, remains an unknown quantity when it comes to the policy.

Leanne O’Donnell, senior associate at Herbert Geer lawyers, expects the current Government won't have time to get data retention bills passed.

Herbert Geer represents ISP iiNet, among others.

“There are nine sitting weeks left,” O'Donnell said. “It’s unlikely in my view there is enough time to get draft legislation on the table.”

The committee on data retention was originally slated to hand in its report in December 2012.

Newly elected president of the Internet Industry Association (IIA), Peter Lee, was optimistic the bill might never see the light of day.

"Mark Dreyfus has a background talking about privacy," Lee said. "We welcome a balanced approach to national security and the need for privacy."

David Campbell, president of the Pirate Party, noted that data retention was "unlikely to be the first thing" to get the new Attorney General's attention. “Regardless, his concerns about individual privacy may give us an advantage," he said.

The proposed data retention laws are part of a broader national security review, something that may be called into question should the Coalition take government in September.

Data retention laws have attracted widespread criticism from luminaries such as Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, right through to the newly formalised Pirate Party.

Speaking in Sydney last week, Berners-Lee described the proposed laws as a “really really bad idea".

“If you record the websites that somebody visits, then you’re not going to get the criminals – they are going to use Tor … they’ll open up a VPN,” he said at the launch of a major CSIRO research initiative last week.

The proposed policy is deeply unpopular with internet service providers.

Last year iiNet’s chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby estimated storing browsing data would cost $60 million and require a dedicated data centre storing 20,000 terabytes of data.

Going further, Dalby estimated the cost of implementing the proposed laws would add $5 per month per account for customers.

“I think this is where you might start to see backlash from the general public,” O'Donnell said today.

“People will start to feel it in the hip pocket. It will be a law enforcement tax, and the government won’t pick up the tab.”

Updated. This story was updated on 5 Feb with the addition of Peter Lee's comments. 

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