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Feb 6, 2015

Data retention will hurt YOU, not criminals. Here's how

The government's data retention is far more likely to harm ordinary Australians than catch criminals or terrorists. Bernard Keane and senior IP and communications lawyer Leanne O'Donnell explain how.



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32 thoughts on “Data retention will hurt YOU, not criminals. Here’s how

  1. Luke Hellboy

    Big brother is watching. If only he wasn’t so facile, corrupt and egomaniacal. With family like that, who needs enemies?

  2. Graeski

    The last sentence says it all, doesn’t it?

    The powerful don’t want to be held to account.

  3. rachel612

    While we’re on the subject of examples: just imagine what Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen’s corrupt police chief might have done with Chris Masters phone metadata back in the day.

    Or what Roger Rogerson might have done with the metadata of his enemies or informants.

  4. David Hand

    This article is a bit shrill, isn’t it? Much of this information is kept by service providers now.

    My Telco has records of every phone call I’ve made in the last 10 years but I don’t see American cults or men with AVOs trawling through records like them.

    Clearly data retention is an important issue with risks of misuse but so is our need to monitor people planning crimes against us and there’s plenty of them.

    Having said all that, I am generally against data retention.

    Snowden has a lot to answer for. He is responsible for criminal gangs and terror organisations changing their operations and going dark.

  5. Scott

    Yeah, I don’t think the writers of this article have actually read the draft bill (or the greater TIA Act 1979, which it piggy backs on). Requires law enforcement agencies to have warrants people.

    Also half the scenarios would not occur in Australia as there are protections already under Australian law regarding access to personal data/metadata. Just because I’m an ex-husband challenging my access arrangements doesn’t mean I get to see Telco records. Just because I bribed a copper, doesn’t mean that copper can search the database. Just because I sue a politician doesn’t mean I get his records, especially if he has parliamentary privilege. Just because I’m a “copyright troll” lawyer doesn’t mean I can ask iinet for the metadata (as Roadshow films vs iinet showed)

    Pretty ordinary article all up. More about free riders worried about their “Game of Thrones” freebies being curtailed. Just buy the box set will you (or sign up to Foxtel)

  6. zut alors

    The above scenarios give pause for thought but yesterday’s article pointing out that ne’er-do-wells can simply use publicly accessible free wi-fi or go to a library to engage in dangerous/dubious communiques is the compelling argument in this debate against data retention.

  7. danger_monkey

    My Telco has records of every phone call I’ve made in the last 10 years but I don’t see American cults or men with AVOs trawling through records like them.

    And since I’m not hungry right now, I have solved world hunger.

  8. Scott


    Mate, read the FBI indictment against Ross Ulbricht. One of the major ways the Feds located him was through metadata records from Google and Comcast (as they were able to match the IP addresses hitting the Silk Road site to the various internet cafes/libraries he used and then cross referenced those with IP addresses used to access gmail/wordpress accounts that he controlled.
    Now the feds were lucky that Comcast and Google kept those records… they weren’t obliged to, but under a legislative Data Retention bill, they would have been compulsory.
    Data Retention isn’t the best at preventing crime, but it is useful in identifying and apprehending criminals. It’s worth having.

  9. Norman Hanscombe

    David Hand, OF COURSE it’s as you say a bit shrill. That’s what you do when preaching to the emotively converted.

  10. Chris Hartwell

    As usual, certain posters – the old hands, as it were – reveal once more the simplicity that governs their approach to even technical complexity.

    Evidence. Where is it that it is effective in preventing terrorist attacks? It certainly wasn’t in France. What about the evidence of it assisting police in clearing investigations? Alas, Germany doesn’t support this either.

    Evidence-based policy? Nope – anecdote-driven policy. They’ll learn when the as-yet-unquantified cost continues to increase, a surveillance tax that dwarfs any impact the carbon pricing scheme had.

  11. Duncan Gilbey

    @David & Norman

    If I have nothing to hide, why are they looking?

  12. Duncan Gilbey

    @David & Norman

    As i’ve asked in a previous forum, please provide a cost/benefit analysis of compulsory data retention

  13. StefanL

    Chris Hartwell:
    AFP Chief Andrew Colvin says that metadata was used to crack a child porn ring, a terrorist plot and a drug syndicate (story in today’s Adelaide Advertiser).

  14. Duncan Gilbey


    All without mandatory data retention.

  15. Neutral

    Seems like a couple of the usual posters are more than happy to trust the likes of say …the NSW police force LOL.

    Ah yes – the shrill emotive bleating of those who think getting a warrant is too hard. The AGD has
    failed to make its case after several attempts over many years. Why?

    Can one of the ‘nothing to hide crowd’ please post their full name, DOB, address, drivers licence number, credit numbers with expiry dates, ccv’s and pins plus all usernames with passwords for all online accounts? And as you have ‘nothing to hide’ you won’t mind doing this naked while shopping. Don’t forget to leave your house and car unlocked.

  16. drsmithy

    This article is a bit shrill, isn’t it?

    Snowden has a lot to answer for. He is responsible for criminal gangs and terror organisations changing their operations and going dark.

    Undoubtedly written without even a whisper of irony.

  17. David Hand

    Say something constructive doctor. I.e. Address the issues.

  18. gdt

    @StefanL. No one disputes the usefulness of metadata to the police. Policing efficiency would also improve if all people were fingerprinted, if you had to register where you slept each night, if you had to carry identity papers at all times, if torture of suspects was permitted, and if mobile courts-martial could apply an immediate death penalty without appeal.

    This of course describes Germany in the last days of Nazism. Which is the point: the primary issue with metadata collection is freedom, not choosing if to improve the efficiency of policing

    Just as the British people refused to consider the compulsory carriage of identity papers — even at the height of the IRA bombings — it is open to us to say “this will have a cost, but this proposal crosses the line too far towards a police state, and we choose freedom”.

  19. max steinman

    The issue of the sheer cost and the infringement of liberty without evidence?

  20. max steinman

    David and Norman you are absolutely pathetic conservatives if you support this kind of government over-reach.

  21. AR

    And just in from Blighty, the High Court has reversed a lower court approval of GCHQ providing illegally acquired information on Britons to the Hegemon to with as it will – wasn’t even demanded to track a paedo t’rist nazi commie, just mutual masturbation by secret, unaccountable agencies.
    No wucking forries here though.

  22. Norman Hanscombe

    max Steinman, what’s closer to being “absolutely pathetic” are your constant attempts to UNDERSTAND what others write, including the importance of giving the words we use as consistent a meaning as we can, so that we actually communicate with those who are capable of analysing complex issues.
    In the meantime, sadly you’ll need to remain in the shallow end of the intellectual pool.

  23. Matt Hardin

    No where ever in your writing on this topic I have r sad have you addressed the sheer cost or effectiveness of this in any but the most simple terms Norman. Stop insulting people and provide facts and numbers to back your argument.

  24. negativegearmiddleclasswelfarenow.com

    Initiated by the alleged actions of an ex-CIA asset armed with a mobile phone and laptop sitting in cave in 2001,
    we have been conditioned over the past decade and a half to believe that nothing short of living in a prison without bars will ensure our safety.

    When will ASIO and ASIS be STASI enough.

  25. Neutral

    What? No personal details from the metabators? No evidence to support their shrill emotive case for metabating? Wankers.

  26. David Hand

    Hey Max,
    Surely you can do better that a puerile “Ra Ra! You’re an idiot” post? You know, say something of substance that can be discussed?

    For example, I don’t share the views of most posters who believe any government surveillance will be used to our disadvantage for the benefit of evil corporations and the USA.

    I think it may help our spies keep track of criminal gangs before they kill us rather than after. Questions about whether or not it will work are of course valid, as is the risk of those with the information misusing it.

  27. Hamis Hill

    Abbott obviously just wants to use metadata to track the criminals in his own party who are conspiring electronically to have him gone?

  28. Chris Hartwell

    It may assist in that David.

    But given that, you yourself noted the increasing use of encryption by said groups – very unlikely to assist. No encryption is unbreakable, it’s just a question of how much you’re willing to spend and how long you’re willing to wait.

    Metadata ain’t gonna help with that. This is why those with a technical understanding of what’s proposed oppose – what is proposed is not fit for its stated purpose.

  29. Andrew Dolt

    Chill Norman, we understand you perfectly. You’re a crashing bore with delusions of grandeur, and a consistently uninformed opinion about everything. If you were to publish the encyclopaedia of your knowledge, only the page numbers would be right.

  30. David Hand

    I comment on the Crikey website because I am interacting with people of a different point of view who can put forward erudite and well thought out views.

    Such as Chris Hartwell.

    These comments are interspersed with ignorant ranting by people who are incapable of putting forward any view one would judge remotely constructive but live in the world of puerile name calling.

    Such as Andrew Dolt.

    Andrew, would you like to write something constructive? You know, a point of view backed by an argument or maybe data that we can think about and agree or disagree with?

    Hey that’s the internet of 2015 I guess.

  31. Norman Hanscombe

    David Hand, surely it’s unreasonable to expect a Dolt to do more than his #29 effort? If one relied (as he suggests)on self-assessment to feel adequate he might be seen as unkind, but we really shouldn’t take away his one means of feeling ‘important’.

  32. danger_monkey

    Time and again, one hears about law enforcement officers who have been corrupted by outside agencies turning over data to outside parties, for example, here:

    If the police cannot be trusted to maintain control over data, how much hope is there that the hundreds of ISP’s (my NBN flier listed more than 70 doing business in my suburb) will be able to maintain control of the ‘metadata’ (the quotes are because the government is proposing to keep much more than the classic definition of metadata) they are being required to retain? How much will an organization care about the quality of staff or security procedures used to protect something they don’t actually want to retain – when most enterprise struggle to protect their key applications already?

    As an aside, David Hand, castigating someone for having a go at Norman is a bit ridiculous, as all Norman ever contributes is either snide asides or golden age stories. He’s the very definition of useless an unconstructive.

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