Feb 14, 2013

‘Banality of evil’: new documents lift the veil on data retention

New documents shed light on the enthusiasm of the Attorney-General's Department to move forward with (and think large on) data retention, and the resistance it encountered from industry.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Documents obtained under freedom of information reveal the Attorney-General’s Department was further advanced in its preparations for a data retention régime than previously disclosed, and had a wider concept of the data to be retained than eventually accepted by the government.

Data retention is one of 44 national security reform proposals currently under consideration by the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. The definition of the data to be retained under the proposal has been a vexed one for both the department, which came under fire from the committee for the poor quality of the paper outlining the reform proposals, and former attorney-general Nicola Roxon. She was forced to clarify that the proposal related to limited “traffic data” rather than any data that would reveal sites visited by individuals.

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9 thoughts on “‘Banality of evil’: new documents lift the veil on data retention

  1. robinw

    Bit of a worry isn’t it when the relevant bureaucrats don’t do the necessary homework to find out what a MAC address is. And then they compound the problem by misnaming it to MAP. And have these illuminati worked out the problems that users with a VPN would present to their scheme? I would expect not with the evidence to date. And what about those with a non Australian ISP? It boggles the imagination at the conniptions these could cause with the secret squirrel brigade.

  2. Mike Smith

    MAC addresses are hardly set in stone for a given NIC these days. It’s trivial to alter them.


  3. Mike Flanagan

    Thanks Bernard for another aricle to store in the memory bank.
    Be Warned, Be Aware and Be Bold, I suggest.
    With modern communication the bum shiners in the backrooms will soon become bored.
    Give ’em heaps Bernard.

  4. AR

    As Hannah Arendt pointed out, the people who are the most dangerous – by virtue (sic!) of their very inconsequentiality in the real world – are the inafequates who infest all structures, private or state, once the mass goes beyond a certain size.
    The Evil of Banality, people without navels, or vision, or EQ.

  5. Harry Rogers

    Once again Bernard you have given me confidence in journalism.

    I recall John Faulkner being dumb founded at the paucity of information given to his commitee by the AGD. Surely there must be some evil intent in what the AGD is trying to do and for what purpose? More to the point how the hell do these processes get initiated?

  6. Person Ordinary

    Bernard – Can you broaden the context for us? What forces are behind this push for “44 national security reform proposals?” Presumably its American, but which institutions are they using for leverage – IMF, secret services, something to do with the Free Trade Agreement? Surely it is not all home grown paranoia?

    Another interesting question might be how the activists go underground as the internet becomes just another weapon of the propagandists … is this related to the stop and search powers?

  7. Bernard Keane

    Person ordinary I think I covered this in a podcast at some point. The pressure comes from 3 areas: from agencies like AFP and ASIO that always want to expand their powers; from the Anglophone security establishment – intelligence and security officials in DC, Canberra, London, Ottawa and Wellington who work closely together and inevitably share ideas, and from the industry itself, which at a time when defence budgets are being cut sees lucrative opportunities in encouraging govts to spend more money on cybersecurity.

  8. Person Ordinary

    Bernard – Thanks, good stuff.

    I was hoping to see something broader like “counter-revolutionary zeal” but that may not impress the moderator, and it may be too early for many to see what is happening in those terms. We shall see …

  9. Dogs breakfast

    This looks like one of those classic examples of policy that comes back to bite one in the b__!

    So poorly thought out. Of course the AFP/ASIO set are going to want access to everything at all times in all circumstances.

    There are two ways around this, 1 is to monitor everything until there is so much damned data that asking for it will be impossible, and if theya re given all they want this will occur naturally.

    Or two, this will create a market in software to help hide your IP address, which will become more sophisticated as the spy set come closer to getting whatever they want.

    I’ve got nothing to hide, but I don’t believe government has the right to look at everything I do, watch, see, post etc.

    This has ‘perverse outcomes’ written all over it.

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