Today is a dark day for Australians and the Internet as the Labor Party caucus approves data retention[1] and the Coalition prepares to introduce misguided new legislation aimed at combatting online copyright infringement[2]. To encourage Australians to join us in fighting back, the Pirate Party is offering pay-what-you-want memberships with no minimum amount at

Pirate Party Deputy President Simon Frew said: “The Government and the Opposition have effectively declared war on the Internet and war on our privacy. The Labor Party has rolled over on data retention, meaning all Australians will be subjected to mass surveillance until this appalling legislation is repealed.

“At the same time, legislation to give copyright holders an easy mechanism to get websites blocked will mean we are subjected to a censorship regime. The Government has opted for a long and pointless game of whack-a-mole — as soon as a site is blocked it will pop up in several new places and copyright infringement will continue.

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As the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) convenes its hearings today in the wake of the Sydney hostage crisis, the Pirate Party urges that this tragedy not be used to hastily legislate mandatory data retention. The Pirate Party, while acknowledging and praising the work of NSW Police in resolving the situation, is deeply concerned about the effectiveness of existing investigative and monitoring procedures.

“We must be cautious not to allow this tragedy to cover the passing of legislation that disrupts fundamental rights and freedoms,” commented Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party. “To date, all incidents that could have been preempted have been with existing police powers. Incidents like the Sydney Hostage Crisis would not be preempted with data retention.”

“A significant question that needs to be answered is how a person such as the perpetrator, Man Haron Monis, who was known[1][2][3] to be a potential threat to the community was not under targeted surveillance, as there are already sufficient powers for this purpose. Our law enforcement and intelligence agencies seem too caught up in pushing for more powers and tools, including data retention, rather than responsibly and effectively using the powers they already have.”

“It is vital that this tragedy is not used to needlessly take away the rights and freedoms so basic to our democracy. We urge the Committee on Intelligence and Security to seriously consider the reality that ‘lone actor’ attacks are conducted by people who will not be detected through data retention, and that terrorist organisations know this and are using it to their advantage[4].”

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Last Friday, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights released its report on the Government’s planned mandatory data retention scheme, reviewing its impact on basic human rights[1]. The Committee of 5 Coalition MPs, 4 Labor MPs, and 1 Greens MP[2] slammed the new bill, citing concerns that in its current form the bill may be in violation of Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary interferences with an individual’s privacy, family, correspondence or home. The Bill’s reliance on future regulation to define the scope of surveillance has the potential to create such an interference.

The report spells out that metadata can be used to extrapolate large amounts of personal information including “political opinions, sexual habits, religion or medical concerns”, that the two year retention period is unjustified, and that it is “very intrusive of privacy”. The report also cites the European Court of Justice ruling against the European Union’s similar “Data Retention Directive”.

“The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has all but confirmed what experts in this field have been saying all along: data retention is disproportionate and unnecessary, it is a serious breach of human rights, and no case has been made for this mass surveillance proposal,” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

“The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security will hopefully recognise this farce for what it is. It has little do with national security, yet is extremely invasive, will effectively introduce a ‘surveillance tax’ for all Internet users, and will have a direct impact on freedom of expression as a result of the knowledge that everybody can have their position tracked and stored for two years. It is extremely draconian.

“This report provides of a glimmer of hope that Parliamentarians could come to their senses and block this fundamentally destructive proposal.”

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The Government, law enforcement and intelligence organisations have repeatedly insisted that Australians have nothing to fear from data retention — they just want to collect “metadata” and not the content of communications. This is a disingenuous attempt at reassurance — “metadata” is data, pure and simple, as one German politician demonstrated.

The website[1], provided by Zeit Online, provides an interactive playback of six months of metadata Malte Spitz accessed from his telecommunications company from 2009, showing his near exact location, fully replayable.

“Across a six month period German politician Malte Spitz was able to use the data retained by his telco to track his movements around Europe. It was able to show how simply carrying a mobile phone with you reveals where you are at nearly all times. This is the sort of mass surveillance system the Australian Government is proposing,” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

“The information they want retained reveals everything about the communication except the content — if you strip away the doublespeak it is data. This information is far from innocuous. It reveals locations, times and interactions. It can be used to create a picture of where everyone has been and who everyone has communicated with, and very precisely. If you sent a text message to your partner before boarding a plane and called them when you arrived they would be able determine what mode of transport you took based on the time and location differences between those interactions.

“No case has been made that justifies the expansion of law enforcement powers to include data retention. All examples used to jusify the introduction of data retention have been based on successes under the current system, disproving the necessity of creating a surveillance state in which even plaintiffs in civil cases such as copyright infringement will be able to access this data.”

The recently proposed data retention legislation will also have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, with the stored data capable of identifying links between journalists and their sources. The Pirate Party strongly encourages journalists to speak out against the legislation which will put them and their sources at increased risk of prosecution.

“If you publish stories revealing corruption or abuse of powers, law enforcement and intelligence personnel will be able to access, without a warrant, details of who you are communicating with and where you and they were at the time. The risk of being caught will mean less people speaking up and providing information to journalists. Stories that are in the public interest simply won’t be written.

“This is an unmitigated attack on freedom of the press. No one will be safe from the prying eyes of the surveillance state,” Mr Molloy concluded.


On Thursday, the Government introduced data retention legislation into the House of Representatives as the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014[1]. The AFP has confirmed, even before the legislation has been voted upon in Parliament, that data retention will be used for copyright enforcement[2]. The legislation also confirms that the exact location of mobile phone users will be stored as part of these provisions.

“There are far too many flaws in this legislation to enumerate,” said Brendan Molloy, President of the Pirate Party.

“There has been no discussion as to why the current retention order provisions are insufficient. This legislation is disproportionate and unnecessary. ‘Metadata’ is ill-defined in such a way as to contain so much information that it is effectively the content of the communication, insofar that it contains the context and location of all communications. This is a massive issue for journalists, whistleblowers, activists, and a whole host of other persons whose activities are in many cases legal but perhaps not in the interests of the state to let happen without some level of harassment.

“There are significant issues relating to cost and security of the data. Steve Dalby of iiNet said yesterday that iiNet would consider storing the data where it is the cheapest, which includes Chinese cloud providers. There will be a significant ‘surveillance tax’ introduced by retailers to cover the costs of storing this data that nobody wants stored.

“Now we have it admitted by the AFP today that this legislation will be used for something completely unrelated to national security: copyright enforcement. The legislation hasn’t passed and yet already the scope is creeping! They are taking away our right to free expression and privacy to protect the profits of a few large corporations.

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