Spy watchdog warns Australia against storing metadata

Canberra, Jan 30 (IANS) A prominent Australian spy watchdog has warned the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) against retaining personal phone and internet data that has no relevance to national security investigations.

The call comes as Australia’s leading spy watchdog and the inspector general of intelligence and security, Vivienne Thom, gives insight to a parliamentary committee on proposed new regulations on storing citizens’ metadata.
Under the new government proposals, police, intelligence agencies, crime commissions and integrity watchdogs would be able to access details regarding phone calls, text messages and internet use for up to two years without a warrant.
Despite the laws intended to prevent serious national crimes such as murder, terrorism and paedophilia, it emerged during the week that government officials would be powerless to stop police forces using the regulations for minor offences.
According to Thom, all irrelevant data should be wiped from systems so it is unable to be accessed unnecessarily.
“There is… data which, although it is obtained lawfully, turns out not to be relevant to security or is no longer relevant to security after a period of time,” Xinhua news agency quoted Thom as telling News Ltd. Friday.
“The balance between security and privacy… requires that this information should not be retained indefinitely and I think that the general public would expect that material found not to be relevant to security would be deleted.”
Thom’s argument has been supported by the Human Rights Commission’s president, Gillian Triggs, who said that new regulations were intrusive and violated people’s privacy.
“Let us say somebody has a sexual orientation which means that they like to go to particular clubs or meet with certain friends, they make phone calls particularly to particular people as part of their network and they do so in a totally legal way,” Triggs told News Ltd.
“So to examine that metadata would tell a great deal about that person and the whole of the social network in which they operate and it would expose them to an intrusion of their privacy in a way they may find exceptional.”