Mandatory data retention is set to come into effect on 13 October 2015. Despite the certainty of this date, there remains considerable uncertainty within the communications industry as to what data needs to be retained to comply with the law. Among this confusion the Attorney-General’s Department has advised the industry that exemptions to the data retention regime will be revoked if their existence is publicised. This is despite the legislation not specifically requiring exemptions remain confidential. The Department has argued that this is to “prevent exposing gaps in data retention legislation to be exposed to criminals”.
“The Government and the Attorney-General’s Department would have the communications industry lie down and accept its fate,” commented Michael Keating, Deputy President of the Pirate Party. “The fact is that the industry has been ignored in the Government’s push to involve itself in every individual’s and business’ communication in Australia. Not only are they dismantling the right to privacy, they want to silence anyone who challenges them, while at the same time expecting everyone to pay for the ‘privilege’. There should be no room for attacking transparency in Australia, but the Attorney-General’s Department seems willing to do this on the flimsy excuse provided.”
With the commencement of the mandatory data retention regime just around the corner, both Kmart and David Jones recently experienced online data breaches resulting in unauthorised access to customer details. These breaches raise serious concerns around the storage of individual’s data once the data retention regime is in operation. Internet service providers have already indicated that they would have no hesitation in storying the data overseas, but there is little information about security measures to prevent unauthorised access. With the stored data being capable of exposing individual’s day-to-day activities (as ABC reporter Will Ockenden’s social experiment demonstrated in August), it is the perfect target for hackers wishing to access and abuse that data. The Government appears happy to use smoke and mirrors to cover this issue.
On Wednesday September 9 the Australian government, as one of its weekly National Security announceables, announced increased funding for The National Facial Biometric Matching Capability. This technology gives law enforcement agencies the ability to use images that were captured for the creation of drivers licenses, passports, and so on, to cross-reference and identify people via CCTV. While it is being pitched as a great tool for catching terrorists, we fear that this technology could be re-purposed into a means of putting the entire population under real-time surveillance, and has the potential for false positives to pull innocent people into cases they played no part in.
The Pirate Party calls upon the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to do away with the theatrics of weekly National Security announceables, which serve no purpose other than political point scoring. We also call on the government to change tack and stop the relentless march towards a police state in an attempt to wedge the ALP.
“Every few weeks the government launches another assault on our civil liberties and every week the ALP waves it through,” said Michelle Allen, Pirate Party candidate for the Canning By-Election. “Our basic rights are under bi-partisan assault in an effort to appear tough on terrorism and crime. Abbott continually attacked civil liberties as a tactic to wedge the ALP. It is time to say enough. We believe that Australians should be treated as citizens not suspects. We call on Malcolm Turnbull to stop the attacks on our freedoms and to restore our civil liberties that have withered under the Abbott government.”
The Pirate Party welcomes the latest development in the Dallas Buyers Club (“DBC”) case. Justice Nye Perram’s ruling protects Australians from speculative invoicing, a practice widespread in the US and other parts of the world in which copyright holders effectively extort legal settlements from those they accuse of copyright infringment. Furthermore, DBC was ordered to pay a bond of $600,000 to access contact details of alleged infringers to ensure they abide by restrictions his Honour may order over the content of communications between the rights-holders and the accused unauthorised file-sharers.
“We are pleased to see the Federal Court taking a keen interest in ensuring customers’ details are not used for shakedowns through speculative invoicing,” said Simon Frew, President of the Pirate Party. “We have been concerned that the DBC case would open the floodgates for a burgeoning new industry of copyright trolling in Australia.”
The judgement is a positive step for consumers because it limits the potential scope of damages. The company has not provided a legitimate way for damages to be calculated and Justice Perram has instructed the damages only be calculated in the context of someone viewing the movie, instead of calculating the cost of buying a commercial license to distribute. This ruling accords with the Pirate Party’s position on the issue, as well those of consumer and digital rights groups such as Electronic Frontiers Australia, who make the point that the movie retails for almost nothing compared to what might be sought as damages.
Last night the Federal Parliament voted to give law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to an unprecedented amount of information on all Australians. The Coalition Government and Australian Labor Party gleefully goose-stepped together to pass legislation requiring telecommunications service providers to store enormous amounts of personal data for a minimum of two years under the mandatory data retention scheme.
This has created a mass surveillance regime that will target all Australians at a time when other countries have abandoned this approach, and Australians will pay for this increased surveillance through taxes and additional phone and Internet charges. This is despite overwhelming evidence that mandatory data retention schemes do not work to reduce serious crime and are a substantial assault on privacy.
Pirate Party Deputy President Simon Frew said: “Years of undermining privacy and other civil liberties has reached a climax. Everyone will live under the shadow of mass surveillance. We can no longer take our privacy for granted. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, a lawyer or a journalist — no one can assume that their communications are confidential. This is the most shamelessly authoritarian legislation Australia has seen for a long time.”
Today is a dark day for Australians and the Internet as the Labor Party caucus approves data retention and the Coalition prepares to introduce misguided new legislation aimed at combatting online copyright infringement. To encourage Australians to join us in fighting back, the Pirate Party is offering pay-what-you-want memberships with no minimum amount at http://pirateparty.org.au/join
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.