We now know that dozens of agencies have applied to access your metadata without a warrant since the Coalition government’s mandatory data retention laws were passed last year.
A remarkable array of agencies want in on your private business, including local councils, Australia Post and Greyhound Racing Victoria.
Last year the government reduced the number of agencies that were able to access metadata and assured voters that the surveillance would only be used for traditional law enforcement purposes. This was a compromise, our pollies said, to protect our privacy.
If they are to remain true to their word, the requests of all 61 of the agencies should be knocked back.
Local councils access metadata to track down people who dump rubbish illegally, while Australia Post has told Crikey they use it to find mobile phones stolen from their stores. But there is no reason why these offences can’t be investigated by traditional law enforcement agencies — which already have unprecedented access to our personal information and are collecting it at a rate far higher than just five years ago.
Australia Post told Crikey this morning that its request had been knocked back by the Attorney-General’s department. This is welcome news, and should extend to all other applicants.
Those opposed to mandatory data retention long warned of the inevitable “scope creep” of the scheme once it became enshrined in law. The government should be fully transparent in deciding whether or not more agencies can snoop on our metadata, or do they have something to hide?