Bilateral talks with the United States to unify data retention legislation could lead to Australia keeping logs of its citizens' online lives for a year.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland (Credit: Darren Pauli/ZDNet Australia)
The talks, set for July this year, will lay the foundations to unify current data retention plans between the US, Europe and Australia.
Governments have proposed that internet providers retain information on customers including websites visited, online searches and key data required to tie verified account identities to IP addresses. The ideas are being pushed as a means to assist law enforcement within and across national borders.
Some European nations insist the log files should be kept for as long as five years, an idea being reviewed under public consultations as part of Australia's move to accede to the controversial European Convention on Cybercrime.
However, both the US and Australia consider five years to be excessive, according to Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
"It would not be viable in Australia," McClelland told ZDNet Australia. "We don't believe that and the US does not believe that."
"We don't believe we need to do that to comply with our convention obligations."
The talks will likely see the Federal Government adopt a US proposal to temper the duration that web logs are kept and the scope of data retained, as well as limit the number of agencies that can access the logs.
McClelland said governments have a "strong obligation" to balance the scope of data retention — including when data should be destroyed and who can access it and for what purpose — with the needs to assist law enforcement to crackdown on online criminal activity.
The data retention proposal has irked internet providers across Australia, the US and Europe, which argue that retaining the logs will be expensive.
Many providers not required to retain logs already do so as a subset of customer billing processes, although the scope of data and the duration it is kept appears far less than that slated under the retention plans.
McClelland said the public discussions with the European Cybercrime Convention will address "what standards are accepted by the community, what ISPs are comfortable with and what is genuinely required by law enforcement".
Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner and national manager of high tech crime operations, Neil Gaughan, had previously said that data retention will be an important police capability.
"We can obtain intercepts ... on pretty much everything. We don't want to see what people are watching on TV, we want to see what people are looking at on the internet."