National security laws designed to deal with terrorism are being exploited for investigating sloppy drivers, illegal bins and even people who post poster posters.
The Communications Alliance, a top group in the telecom sector that counts Telstra, Vodafone and Optus, has raised the alarm about an important loophole in government metadata legislation.
The laws, introduced two years ago, recommend telco & # 39; s to the & # 39; metadata & # 39; to collect and store the mobile and online communication of every Australian.
But a legal loophole means that the data is & # 39; undermined & # 39; by local councils and other government agencies for purposes that have little or nothing to do with national security.
Local councils have sought metadata for – of all people – poster posters, said the telecom sector, the Communications Alliance
Government agencies have also requested metadata from telephone companies for traffic matters, a parliamentary inquiry was heard
Even experts admit that the term & # 39; metadata & # 39; can be confusing. But they warn that it is an incredibly powerful tool for government agencies and researchers.
& # 39; Metadata & # 39; is technical background information about a telephone call or online message.
The metadata of a telephone call is, for example, information about who called who, at what time and from where.
But does not contain what was said during the conversation.
The laws, passed in 2015, gave only 22 police and security organizations access to Australian metadata, without an order, for national security and crime prevention reasons.
But the Communications Alliance has revealed that 60 other agencies have tried to access metadata in a joint submission Parliamentary Committee on Security and Intelligence.
If someone is sitting on top of the Harbor Bridge (according to location data) calling a suicide prevention supplier, you do not need the content for what is going on
Digital expert Nigel Phair about why metadata is so important
Local councils, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), Report Illegal Dumping NSW and the Veterinary Surgeons Board of WA are among the bodies that have signed up to use metadata for their own purposes, the submission said.
State Fisheries Offices, Racing Integrity Victoria, the NSW Office of State Revenue, Centrelink, the Australian tax office and corpses have also attempted to exploit the information.
According to her, the Alliance often wrongly warned both the public and experts that telecommunications data of ordinary Australian people can be accessed without a warrant for only a very limited number of 22 law enforcement and security authorities. & # 39;
But the industry group said this is not the case and 60 entities had sought data using a loophole in the Act 280 of the Telecommunications Act 1997.
The Australian Sports Anti Doping Agency – which is investigating Shayna Jack (above) for failing a drug test – is an agency requesting metadata
Racing Integrity Victoria is another agency that has sought metadata (Melbourne Cup stock photo above)
& # 39; Bodies / agencies include city councils that request access to data to manage traffic violations, unauthorized removal of trees, illegal landfills for waste and billposters, & # 39; said the submission.
& # 39; The RSPCA, the Environmental Protection Authority and the coroners are other examples of entities that have succeeded in undermining the intended scope of the legislation. & # 39;
Reported information included location data, call records, and customer identification.
In a separate entry, Telstra, Australia's largest telco, said that public access to the regime could undermine and undermine the relationship we have with our customers regarding the protection of their privacy & # 39 ;.
UNSW digital expert Nigel Phair said the government wanted to reverse the approval of government agencies such as the RSPCA access metadata under the 2015 laws.
WHAT IS METADATA AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
Metadata is & # 39; data about the data & # 39; and has become a hugely powerful tool for law enforcement agencies, a technology expert said.
Nigel Phair, director of the Cyber department of the University of New South Wales, simply explained the controversial topic.
UNSW Cyber & # 39; s Nigel Phair
& # 39; If I send you an email, this is not the content of the email.
& # 39; Things like when the email was sent, the email ID, the dates and time stamps, locations, things like that. & # 39;
In today's saturated world of mobile phones, metadata also contains information such as geolocation and websites that are visited.
Law enforcement authorities require that warrants have access to the content of communication.
But Mr. Phair said that access to metadata can often tell the story entirely on his own.
& # 39; If someone sits on top of the Harbor Bridge (according to location data) calls a suicide prevention provider, you don't need the content for what's going on & # 39 ;.
& # 39; If you have metadata that someone has been in a pub all night and the next day searches for STD clinics on their device, again … where metadata is really powerful for law enforcement, you can build data constructs. & # 39;
The illegal dumping of waste was another point of attention for metadata requests
& # 39; Previously they could do this, but when the changes came out, it was limited to law enforcement, & # 39; said Mr. Phair.
But telco's said that while they do not have access to metadata that has been collected exclusively under government retention laws, they may need to disclose it if they also keep it for their own records.
& # 39; (It is) a serious and persistent phenomenon, a problem that gets bigger and bigger & # 39 ;, the Communications Alliance warned.
The government committee is reviewing the retention laws for metadata.
Daily Mail Australia contacted the Ministry of the Interior for comments.
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