Bankstown City Council, the National Measurement Institute and Australia Post are among 61 government agencies that have applied to be able to access telecommunications data without a warrant.
Under legislation passed last year, which came into effect in October, telecommunications companies are required to store so-called metadata such as call records, assigned IP addresses, contact information and location information for a minimum of two years. This data can then be accessed by just 22 government agencies, including the Australian Federal Police, ASIO, state police agencies and Border Force. This is down from the 83 agencies that had access to the data in the financial year prior to the legislation passing, and was a gesture from the government to show commitment to keeping use of metadata purely for law enforcement purposes.
Attorney-General George Brandis highlighted the reduction when the legislation passed last year:
"We recognise that the right to privacy and the principle of freedom of the press are fundamental to our democracy. For these reasons, the bill contains new and strengthened safeguards. These include the provision of new oversight powers to the Commonwealth Ombudsman; a reduction in the number of agencies accessing metadata from over 80 to 21; and specific protections for journalists and their sources."
The legislation does, however, give agencies left off the list the ability to apply to the Attorney-General to seek access. In response to a freedom of information request filed by both technology publication ZDNet and privacy campaigner Geordie Guy, this week the Attorney-General's department revealed 61 agencies had applied for access since the law came into effect.
The names of four state government agencies were redacted on the grounds that releasing the names of the agencies would cause damage to Commonwealth-state relations.
The agencies that have requested to be given access are:
Australian Financial Security Authority
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
Australian Taxation Office
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
Clean Energy Regulator
Department of Agriculture
Department of Defence
Department of Environment
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Department of Health
Department of Human Services
Department of Social Services
Fair Work Building and Construction
National Measurement Institute
ACT Revenue Office
Access Canberra (Department of Treasury and Economic Development)
Bankstown City Council
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Consumer, Building and Occupational Services Tasmania
Consumer and Business Affairs South Australia
Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
WA Department of Commerce
WA Department of Corrective Services
Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources
Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
WA Department of Environment Regulation
WA Department of Fisheries
Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation (Consumer Affairs)
Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation (Sheriff of Victoria)
WA Department of Mines and Petroleum
NSW Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries)
SA Environment Protection Authority
Greyhound Racing Victoria
Harness Racing NSW
NSW Health Care Complaints Commission
Victorian Legal Services Board
NSW Environment Protection Authority
NSW Fair Trading
NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
Qld Office of Fair Trading
NSW Office of State Revenue
Qld Office of State Revenue
Victorian Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner
Primary Industries and Regions South Australia
Queensland Building and Construction Commission
Racing and Wagering Western Australia
Roads and Maritime Services NSW
Victorian State Revenue Office
Taxi Services Commission Victoria
Victorian WorkSafe Authority
Under the legislation, the Attorney-General can, via legislative instrument, declare particular agencies to be "criminal law enforcement agencies" to get access to metadata, but the data attention legislation needs to be amended. The Attorney-General can give temporary access to specific agencies that request it, but the legislation must be amended within 40 sitting days after access is granted in order to keep that access permanently. Any change to the legislation must also be examined by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security.
Some agencies have already had their applications rejected. Crikey has confirmed that Australia Post applied after the legislation came into effect in October but was rejected. Australia Post wanted to track stolen mobile phones from the company's retail stores by tracking their location using information stored by the carriers themselves as part of the mandatory data retention scheme.
Crikey has asked the Attorney-General's Department to confirm which government agencies have had their applications rejected. While the department would not state whether any agencies were rejected, it did state that no temporary access had been granted to any government agencies.
In the report for metadata access for the financial year ending June 30, 2015, 83 government agencies requested access to stored metadata 371,831 times, up from 345,056 in the 2013-2014 financial year.
Added information provided by the Attorney-General's Department.
The Commonwealth Bank would have been forced to disclose its mammoth data breach if the government had fulfilled its promise of requiring companies to report breaches. But instead the government took three years to do it.