The Pirate Party is critical of the Government’s secrecy surrounding its most recent discussion paper on data retention. While the public is yet to see a formal proposal, telecommunications providers were given confidential advanced copies last Friday[1].

Pirate Party President Brendan Molloy commented: “No reason has been given for why the public must remain in the dark. This is a fundamentally undemocratic approach that excludes the major stakeholder — the Australian public. Botched media interviews and confused, conflicting statements over the past weeks have not provided any reassurance to Australians that the Government is competent enough to understand the enormous implications data retention has for our privacy. This is a highly controversial policy, and one that has already been rejected in the European Union precisely because it threatens privacy to such an unreasonable degree[2]. It is a complex area that needs great consideration and maximum public participation.

“No justifiable reason to store information that reveals individuals’ locations has been provided, let alone allowing access without a warrant. The Pirate Party’s position has been and continues to be that the threshold for access to stored data under existing arrangements is already too low, and must require a warrant. This extends to any further proposals.

“It also seems, despite the Attorney-General dismissing the suggestion, that the storage of information relating to download volumes is for the benefit of the copyright lobby. This was not on the cards previously, and we cannot fathom what use this information would be to the investigation of terrorism and other serious crimes.

“To mandate the retention of such vast quantities of information on all Australians is not a proportional nor necessary response to the perceived threats. The Attorney-General must immediately release this document in full, as well as future documents. Australians at large are the biggest stakeholders in these proposals, and have the right to be informed.”

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/data-retention-discussion-shrouded-in-secrecy-20140826-108fdr.html
[2] http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2014-04/cp140054en.pdf

In response to the recent announcement that the Government will pursue a mandatory two-year data retention regime in Australia, Electronic Frontiers Australia and GetUp! have launched a petition opposing these plans[1]. The Pirate Party, which had a similar petition tabled in the Senate in February 2013[2], is fully supportive of the initiative and encourages all Australians concerned about their privacy and incursions into their right to free expression to sign it.

The petition is available at https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/privacy/mandatory-data-retention-efa–2/sign-the-petition

“Metadata is everything and nothing if you believe what has been unthinkingly blurted by each Government minister given the opportunity to ramble aimlessly on a topic they have no understanding of[3][4],” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party. “What is clear is that there are far-reaching, negative consequences of the introduction of any data retention regime and we are wholeheartedly against their introduction.

“Please sign this petition to show that Australians are firmly against data retention measures that would not only be ineffective at combatting crime but would also unnecessarily and disproportionately impact on our civil rights to privacy and free expression. Australians have the right not to be treated as criminals by default. We’ve fought it before, we’ll fight it again, and we’ll win.”

The significant majority (98.9% by some estimates[5][6]) of submissions made to the National Security Inquiry in 2012-13 were against the introduction of a data retention regime.

It is unclear just what data will be collected and stored under the retention regime, however it appears from comments made by the Attorney-General that it will extend as far as the websites that Internet users visit. No legislation has been proposed, making it incredibly difficult to critique the proposals in detail.

[1] https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/privacy/mandatory-data-retention-efa–2/sign-the-petition
[2] http://pirateparty.org.au/2013/02/26/data-retention-goes-back-underground-as-campaign-turns-up-the-heat/
[3] http://www.skynews.com.au/video/program_agenda/2014/08/06/agenda-security-laws-may-collect-metadata.html
[4] https://soundcloud.com/something-wonky/george-brandis-dubstep (necessary listening for all true masochists)
[5] http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sundayextra/905-segment/5655718
[6] http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au/content/motions/motion-data-retention

The Pirate Party is vehemently opposed to any proposals for data retention being put forward by the Abbott Government[1]. It has been announced that the National Security Committee[2], part of the Cabinet, has signed off on proposals to store all telecommunications “metadata” for two years, meaning that everyone with a phone or Internet connection will have the details of their communications stored. This proposal is being justified as necessary on tenuous “national security” grounds and on the basis that content of communications will be excluded.

“It is wholly inappropriate for a digitally illiterate cabal of politicians to determine what is appropriate policy in this area at all. The media also continues to fuel misinformation regarding what is being proposed here and it must stop,” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

“Storing 24 months worth of metadata from Internet-based communications is not comparable to storing the time and phone number of a phone call. Internet metadata can identify not only who you contacted and when, but dependent on the device you are using, it could include your exact position during that communication, the subject matter of the communication, the context of the communication, and a whole wealth of other information that could not be gathered from the content.

“This is a grotesque attack on every Australian’s right to privacy and the legal principle of being treated as innocent until proven guilty, as a blanket Internet surveillance regime treats us all as suspects, sucking up a wealth of data that goes significantly beyond the pre-digital era definition of metadata. Metadata is personally identifiable information; it is private, and it should require a warrant for collection and access. The potential for abuse greatly outweighs any positives there may be.

“The smallest, most reasonable gesture the Government could perform is to seriously undertake an open and considered consultation process on these proposals, and allow those who understand the implications of what is being proposed to demonstrate what an absurdly disproportionate and undesirable proposal it is.

“The worst part is that there is no evidence that this will help fight ‘terrorism’ at all. If we look to the US, despite their global wiretapping regime, domestic terror attacks such as the Boston Bombings were not thwarted by the wide-scale, dragnet surveillance of people around the world. Why would it work here?”

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Below is an open letter sent today to the Secretary of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) requesting an extension of time to submit on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2014. The Attorney-General has proposed the new legislation based on earlier recommendations of the PJCIS which were made in 2013. It is an extensive bill, as the letter explains, and deviates from the 2012 recommendations significantly in some places. The Pirate Party has requested a two week extension for all submissions given the enormity of both the bill and its explanatory memorandum. The outcome of this request will be published here once an answer is received.

UPDATE: An extension has been granted to all persons and organisations intending to make a submission. The new date is 6 August 2014 (shorter than the two week extension requested) according to a media release issued on 29 July 2014 by the Committee.

Dear Secretary of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security,

Pirate Party Australia believes in considered, deliberative and consultative policy development. Our internal procedures are perfectly in line with these ideals, and our policy development is open to all members, and even interested outsiders. Our policies, as they are developed, are open for discussion typically for months before they are considered to be enacted.

It is with this in mind that we are disheartened by the extreme swiftness with which some very serious legislation that potentially affects all Australians is being rushed through the review process.

The time given to respond to the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2014 is insufficient given the serious and substantial nature of the proposed amendments. It was referred to the Committee on 16 July 2014, with a deadline of 1 August 2014 for submissions on a bill that is 124 pages in length accompanied by an explanatory memorandum of 167 pages.

Although based on prior recommendations the Committee made in its 2013 Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation, the bill exceeds those recommendations significantly in places. More time is necessary to sufficiently analyse and put forward a measured and reasonable position on these matters.

For example, in a densely worded change to section 18(2) of the Australian Security Intelligence Act 1979, there is a small amendment that could result in far-reaching implications for how far political communication would be restricted.

Without adequate time to analyse all the elements of this extremely long and dense documentation, and to formulate coherent feedback, the process of consultation that is being undertaken would be ineffective, and would result in the process being seen to be a mockery.

We request that, at the very least, a further fourteen (14) days are granted to all persons and organisations who intend to submit to this committee. To not allow this would be an affront to democracy.


Regards,

Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer
Deputy Secretary
Pirate Party Australia

The Pirate Party renews its calls for the Government to abandon the pursuit of mandatory data retention following comments from the Attorney-General that data retention is under “active consideration”[1]. The Attorney-General also stated that data retention is “the way western nations are going.”

Pirate Party President Simon Frew commented: “What the Attorney-General has essentially said here is that everyone else is doing it, therefore Australia should too. This is abysmal reasoning in light of the thorough criticism provided by the Court of Justice of the European Union earlier this year, in a judgment that overturned the EU’s Data Retention Directive. The Court overturned the Directive precisely because it violated fundamental rights. That was not an invitation for law makers to find a different way of implementing a similar regime. The failure of the Data Retention Directive should serve to deter governments from implementing mandatory data retention: that level of indiscriminate intrusion into people’s privacy is unacceptable.

“The Attorney-General has also stated that privacy intrusions for the purposes of law enforcement should not be disproportionate[2]. We put it to the Attorney-General that data retention is disproportionate. How on earth could it be considered proportionate to store all information about who is contacting who, when they are speaking, for how long, and where they are? A society under constant surveillance is not an appropriate goal.

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