AFP asst commissioner backs metadata collection

Summary:Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner, Tim Morris, has backed the collection and storage of telecommunications metadata by telcos in a bid to combat cyber crime.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) assistant commissioner, Tim Morris, has reiterated the government's need for telecommunications companies in Australia to collect and store non-content metadata in order to aid the nation's police and security agencies' efforts to fight cyber crime.

During a presentation today at the CeBIT technology conference in Sydney, Morris — who is the national manager of high tech crime operations within the AFP — said that without the collection and storage of metadata, much criminal investigation would not be worth undertaking.

"Without that data, successful investigations cannot be mounted," said Morris. "Without the ability to attribute back to a source, it's almost impossible and if we can't do that, many investigations aren’t worth taking on in the first place.

"All I can do is offer the policeman's realistic perspective and that is that many investigations won’t be worth taking on at all," he said.

Morris' comments come less than two weeks after a series of public Senate hearings into the revision of the Telecommunications Act of 1979, headed up by Green's senator, Scott Ludlam — who believes the Act is outdated and does not contain adequate privacy provisions for individuals in today's telecommunications environment.

In its submission to the review, the AFP outlined the necessity of the collection of metadata in the pursuit of combating an increasing amount of online crime in Australia and internationally, as did a number of other government agencies.

Although Morris said he backed the collection and storage of non-content telecommunications data, he stopped short of suggesting it should be entirely overseen and funded by agencies such as the AFP. Instead, he suggested that either telcos should bear the burden, or that a new, independent body should be created to oversee the task.

"The government could provide financial assistance to store the data, but I wouldn't want the AFP to store the data. I think it would be the wrong look. Perhaps if there was another independent agency to do it," he said. "It's got to come with the cheapest, most secure options.

"Maybe companies keeping it and protecting it themselves is the cheapest option. I don't think it's a good idea for the police to store data on everyone and I think too many people would have too many reservations about that,” he said.

Topics: Government : AU, Security

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Leon covers enterprise technology and start-ups from ZDNet's Sydney newsroom.

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