LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch is seeking to reassure Far Northerners that proposed data retention laws do not pose an increased threat to privacy, ahead of a protest in Cairns tomorrow.
“Data retention is a vital measure to help us, as a country, stop online criminals,” Mr Entsch said today. “We need to put processes in place so that we have a strategic defence against tech-savvy criminals, and so that our law enforcement agencies can respond quickly and effectively against threats to Australian people.”
The proposed Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 will see the Federal Government working with major telcos such as Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to fight crime on an international, electronic level by requiring the telcos to keep specific metadata for two years.
“Metadata is the ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ not the content of a communication,” said Mr Entsch. “It’s information such as an email address or telephone number and the time the email was sent or the call was made. It doesn’t include the content of the communication not even the subject line.
“This is not about targeting the petty pirates who illegally download Game of Thrones or the latest Hobbit movie, but defending Australian families against the hard-core criminal organisations who engage in child exploitation, identity theft, and terrorism,” he said.
Mr Entsch says the value of data retention was highlighted most obviously in a recent EUROPOL child exploitation investigation called Operation RESCUE.
“In the UK, which has data retention laws, authorities were able to positively identify 240 of 371 suspects two thirds of them using telecommunications data. The police stings that followed led to 121 arrests and convictions,” he said.
“Compare that to Germany, which has no data retention laws. In the same operation, 377 suspects were believed to be living in Germany, but German authorities were only able to positively identify seven less than 2 per cent. Furthermore, they weren’t able to gather enough evidence to arrest or convict a single person.
“The same situation was repeated in Austria, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Norway which, at the time, did not have data retention laws.”
Mr Entsch said that had these countries had legislation in place, they would have been able to convict potentially hundreds of child molesters.
“Do we want to find Australia in a similar situation unable to lock up major criminals because we didn’t learn from the mistakes of others? I hope not,” he said.
Mr Entsch added that concerns about a loss of privacy were unfounded.
“The Government is not asking the telecommunications companies to retain a person’s web browsing history or any data that would amount to or reveal web-browsing history,” he said.
“We are not asking the industry to keep IP address records, and we are not asking for the content or substance of emails or social media posts.”
Access to the data will be rigorously controlled only very specific government agencies will be able to request access, and only in very specific circumstances related to law enforcement.
“We are blessed with having incredible communications technology that lets us speak with family across the world, download our favourite movies and music in minutes, and tweet or blog about our lives to a potential audience of billions,” Mr Entsch added, “but not everyone is using it for good.”
Mr Entsch will speak in support of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 when it is debated in Parliament in early 2015.