The govt is considering opening up metadata to civil lawsuits

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The govt is considering opening up metadata to civil lawsuits

Wants info on the types of cases that should get access.

The federal government is considering whether to exercise its powers to make the personal data stored under the nation's data retention scheme open for use in civil litigation.

Concerns were raised at the time the scheme came into play that it could be used in civil cases, specifically to help rights holders chase copyright infringers.

The government strongly denied the scheme could be used to hunt down pirates, despite Telstra telling the Attorney-General's Department that it fully expected to receive requests for the metadata for use in civil cases. 

The AFP also admitted it would use the scheme to chase copyright infringers, comments that then-Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull quickly moved to hose down.

The bill itself prohibits the use of the data in civil cases, but it includes the ability for the government to make exceptions - through regulations - for "appropriate" cases.

The government tweaked the bill after the parliamentary committee on intelligence and security recommended it include the ability to make a regulation allowing for the data to be used in appropriate civil cases.

The committee was concerned of the potential for unintended negative consequences stemming from a decision to ban civil litigants from accessing the data for use in the lawsuits. It gave examples of family law proceedings involving violence and international child abduction cases.

The AGD is now asking the public for its opinion on whether it should make use of this power, as part of its promise to review the measure and report back to parliament by April 13 next year.

It wants to know the circumstances under which civil litigants currently request access to the information stored in the data retention scheme, the effect being denied access would have on a lawsuit, and if there should be any specific exemptions to the prohibition rule.

Australia's data retention laws went live in October last year.

The scheme requires telecommunications providers to store certain customer data like personal details, billing information, IP addresses, location and traffic data, and upload and download volumes, among other things, for government agencies to access without a warrant.

The department is taking submissions until January 13.

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