Optus, Telstra urge Govt to commit to paying cost of data retention

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Optus, Telstra urge Govt to commit to paying cost of data retention
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Data retention critics, supporters come out in droves

The Telstra and Optus submissions were just two of more than 100 published today on the data retention bill.

White-collar crime agency ASIC, Tasmania Police, and the Attorney-General's Department came out in support of the bill, joining fellow law enforcement agencies who have long lobbied for a data retention scheme.

Australia's state police forces and national law enforcement agencies such as ASIO and the AFP say the scheme is vital to the ongoing success of Australia's crime-fighting efforts.

However, many others signalled their opposition to a proposal they say is an invasion of privacy and open to scope creep as well as the potential for data misuse.

Among dozens of individual submissions denouncing the proposal, human rights groups such as Privacy International, the Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, and Amnesty International - alongside consumer body ACCAN and free market thinktank the IPA -  decried the bill as going beyond what was necessary.

All said the draft bill seriously impinged on the right to privacy and additionally failed to include sufficient minimum safeguards to prevent unlawful access to or abuse of data.

"It will seriously and unreasonably impinge upon the rights of law-abiding Australians. It amounts to an ‘indiscriminate, society-wide’ invasion of privacy which rebuts the presumption of innocence," Australian Lawyers for Human Rights argued in its submission.

"It chills freedom of expression and of assembly. It assumes that every Australian is potentially guilty and should be monitored. These consequences would be more akin to a police state."

The AHRC argued the Government needed to include the dataset in the primary legislation; that it shrink the two-year retention period to one year; that penalties apply for inappropriate access and misuse of data; and that the Government implement an independent authorisation system, controlled by a court or administrative body.

Tech vendors voice opposition

Australia's national IT vendor representative body, the AIIA, also hit out at a "costly" and "unjustifiably onerous" scheme it said lacked  "clarity and precision" and created "increased ambiguity for a broad range of service providers".

The organisation, which represents the likes of Apple, Google, Lenovo, and Microsoft, among others, argued Australia's law enforcement agencies had failed to prove that the proposed data retention scheme would result in a net benefit to society.

The AIIA called on the Government to delay the bill until it could make clear to service providers what they would be subject to under the yet-to-be-detailed supporting regulations, and until the two-year retention period was brought in line with overseas examples down to six or 12 months.

The vendor body also advised the Government to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the financial impact the changes would have on service providers, and how that cost would be covered.

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