As we have reported, today is the official start of mandatory data retention requirements for Australian telecommunications companies, and most say they are not ready to comply with the government’s new obligations. Attorney-General George Brandis has previously tangled himself up attempting to define the metadata needed to be stored in a Walkley Award-winning interview with Sky News’ David Speers. He’s not about to let himself get into the same mess again. When asked byMichael Brissenden on ABC’s AM program what data was required to be held, Brandis stuck to the script:

Brissenden: One of the problems seem to be what it is exactly they are supposed to keep.

Brandis: That is set out with particularity in the legislation.

Brissenden: What is it?

Brandis: What is required is that metadata, that is information about a communication as opposed to the content of the communication, be retained by industry participants. There is a detailed specification which is set out in the legislation.

The legislation, however, does not set out the exact types of data that telcos will be required to keep. It just sets out the more general sorts of data the companies should be keeping. Contrary to the government’s claim that it is only requiring telcos to store the data they already store, there are many types of new data that will need to be held under the scheme. The confusion lies in that many telcos have different types of data and despite going back and forth with the Attorney-General’s Department over the last six months, a majority of telcos still have no idea what data needs to be held. Not even Telstra, Australia’s largest telco, could meet the deadline. The company’s chair, Catherine Livingstone, told shareholders today that it had been approved by AGD for an extension of time to get ready.

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Peter Fray

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