Mandatory Data Retention In Australia

There is no mandatory data retention law in Australia; however, Australia Attorney General implemented an EU-style data retention law. In July 2012, Attorney General Nicola Roxon submitted a bunch of proposals to the Australian parliament suggesting such measures that would enhance the online surveillance power of the law enforcement agencies which also includes a 2 year “tailored” data retention scheme. The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 requires telecommunications companies to retain a particular set of telecommunications data for at least two years.

Data protection legislation for the protection of citizen’s personal data is currently implemented in Australia. The proposed “Ozlog” mandatory data retention policy needed the Australian Internet service providers to store the data about the web user’s history for 2 years. The power of interceptions would have been increased by this proposal which would have made easier breaking into computers and computer networks for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO).

A report was issued by the Australian Senate which recommended that first, the government will study the costs, benefits, and risks of data retention legislation. It demonstrated that retaining data by law enforcement agency is vital and justifies the implementation costs to ISPs. The report also assured that the citizen’s data will be stored in the most secure way and is subject to appropriate accountability mechanisms.

Also, the report asked the consultation of Australian government with a vast range of stakeholders and NGOs, which the Australian government still has to consult. The parliament joint committee on Intelligence and Security of Australia did not consider the current plan’s terms of reference and conveyed it back for reconsideration.

The parliament of Australia passed a metadata retention bill back in October 2015; according to this law, all the Telcos and ISPs in the country will be legally responsible for storing the user’s metadata for a time period of 2 years. The data will be stored for the purpose of investigations and proceedings by law enforcement agencies in Australia.

Edward Snowden Say’s On Australia’s Mandatory Data Retention Law

The telecom companies had a time period of 18 months for preparing proposals for an effective data retention or data retention strategies. This 18 months period was requested by Australia’s top three telecom companies that are Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. The time was up and now Australian citizens’ data will be retained by the broadband companies. The government has said that it won’t only use it for catching the criminals but for the pieces of evidence in child custody cases, in divorce proceedings and for solving employer-employee disputes.

The metadata retention law is against all the privacy advocates however it is supported by both Labor and Coalition. A journalist Quentin Dempster working for The Sydney Morning Herald said that the law will turn the country’s entire communication system into a surveillance mechanism for at least 21 of the government agencies active in the country.

What Metadata Retention law will be looking?

Under the new law, all the metadata of the users will be watched by 21 Australian agencies which have 2500 appointed offices. The data that will be looked after under the law includes account holder name and location, mobile number, information about any communication, the duration of communication (messengers, emails, websites, social media, VoIP), the location of the device, receiver’s communication, email details and much more. This kind of collection of data can give details about the personal life of the user, his behavior and also his financial details. By this, the Australian government will be able to profile the user by knowing his likes and dislikes, medical history, relationship status, political views, financial data, and much more.


Even though the current situation of the data collection is limited, it can be said that it will increase in the future next. There is the threat of innocuous activity raising suspicion by false positive identity. This will, in turn, lead to increased number of warrants subjected to the average people, these warrants may also result in the retention of additional details related to those people. Hence an average user will come under high surveillance by the government.

Protection from metadata revolves around general tools and practices that one can apply to as a consequence of new data retention law and a common increase in the communication activities surveillance.

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