Greens try for last-minute data retention amendments

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Greens try for last-minute data retention amendments

Bill up for debate in Senate.

The Greens today attempted to convince the Senate to vote through last-minute amendments to the Government's proposed data retention legislation, which looks set to pass into law after the Labor Party gave its support to the bill.

The ALP's support meant the bill passed through the lower house last week: only three MPs - Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan - voted against its passage.

The ALP agreed to vote through the bill after the Government said it would implement 39 recommendations to the proposed legislation.

But the bill has continued to generate significant concern over claims of broad overreach and the removal of right to privacy.

The Greens today introduced a number of amendments to the bill that would force law enforcement agencies to apply for warrants in order to access the majority of the metadata stored under the regime.

The party also believes the process should have "proper, independent oversight", and the storage period should be cut down from the proposed two years to just three months.

The data should also be stored in Australia, the Greens said. There are currently no requirements to retain the data locally, leaving the option open for internet service providers and telcos to host the information in a cheaper, offshore facility.

“Under our amendments, authorities will need to apply for a warrant in the majority of cases before metadata can be accessed, will only be able to do so in relation to serious crimes, and the role of the public interest advocate will be widened to contest the breadth of these authorisations," Greens MP Scott Ludlam said in a statement.

“Our amendments will ensure data is stored in Australia, and is held for three months, rather than two years, before being destroyed. Storing the data in Australia will reduce the risk of hacking and data breaches leading to mass exposure of personal information."

Ludlam and the Greens will additionally move that the Commonwealth Ombudsman undertake six-monthly examinations of the records of each agency able to access the data under the scheme.

That list was expanded to include the Australian Securities and Investment Committee (ASIC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after both protested at being left off the initial group of agencies able to access the data without a warrant.

The Greens have also sought to remove the ability of the Attorney-General of the day to widen the scope of the scheme through regulation, which the A-G is currently able to do for the service providers involved in the scheme, the definition of metadata, and agencies able to access it.

Telcos should be required to destroy the retained data after the three-month period, the Greens have moved, unless the companies need to keep it for billing purposes.

"This is a bill to entrench massive, passive surveillance," Ludlam said in the Senate today.

"It [also] normalises the fiction that this information is nothing more than billing records or the envelope that surrounds substantive communications."

Anyone who says the stored data is just billing records is either "technically illiterate or lying to your face", Ludlam argued.

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