Abbott says Australians' web browsing history to be retained

Abbott says Australians' web browsing history to be retained

Summary: Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that every Australians' web browsing history will be retained for access by government agencies without a warrant.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said web browsing history for each and every Australian resident would be required to be retained by telecommunications companies under new data retention legislation expected to be entered into parliament later this year.

Yesterday the prime minister and Attorney-General George Brandis said that in principle approval had been given by Cabinet for Brandis to develop a framework to require telecommunications companies to retain customer data for up to two years. Brandis said he would be consulting with the companies in developing this proposal, but iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby told ZDNet yesterday he had yet to hear from the government.

The definition of the actual data the government wants kept, and the length of time it will be kept for remains a mystery, with the announcement yesterday not detailing the exact specifics of the data that will be held.

iiNet has said if the data retention proposal is simply about retaining call records, then there is little controversy with the proposal, but said that confidential briefings from the Attorney-General's Department state that much more data will be kept as part of the scheme.

Speaking to the Today Show this morning, Abbott confirmed an expansion of data retained indicating that browsing history would be required to be retained by the telecommunications companies.

"Let's be clear about what this so-called metadata is. It's not the content of the letter, it's what is on the envelope," he said.

"It's not what you're doing on the internet, it's the sites you're visiting. It's not the content, it's just where you've been, so to speak. We're talking to the internet providers to ensure this so-called metadata is kept."

Abbott went further on ABC's AM program, stating that any data generated by the telcos about their customers would be kept.

"My understanding is that if it is generated by you, it is content, and that won't be kept. If it is generated by the service providers, that's metadata, and it will be kept," he said.

Abbott rejected claims that the scheme would cost iiNet up to AU$100 million in the first two years to implement, stating it was something the company already had factored in to pricing.

"I don't know why they would be saying that because this is information that is already kept," he said.

"It's embedded in the current price, it's already factored into current pricing structures."

But there appears to be conflicting descriptions of the data set that would need to be retained under the scheme. Brandis told 2GB Radio this morning that it would only be the call records and email records that would be retained.

"It's not everything recorded," he said.

"Metadata is the identitiy of numbers or email addresses."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the ABC's 7.30 program last night that telcos would only be required to retain what was required.

"This is not about breaching privacy or listening in to people's private conversations. This is ensuring that our intelligence agencies have the capability to detect terrorists at work," she said.

"The way to detect a terrorist cell is to work out their networks and so our intelligence and security agencies need the capacity to do that. We will work with the telcos to ensure that there is a balance and that we only gather what we need to gather for the purposes of counter-terrorism."

Bishop said the detail on what would be required to be retained would appear in the legislation.

Topics: Privacy, Government, Government AU, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Detecting terrorists?

    "This is not about breaching privacy or listening in to people's private conversations. This is ensuring that our intelligence agencies have the capability to detect terrorists at work,"

    And of course terrorists don't know to hide their tracks by using a secure tunnel that hides all this from the local ISP.

    All you're going to do is create massive exploitable (marketing? lol) databases of everyone's porn surfing habits.
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  • Guilty until proven innocent

    You've gotta love these luddite idiots trying to describe a data retention system they have no clue about. It'd be funny if it wasn't so infuriating and dangerous.

    "It's not what you're doing on the internet, it's the sites you're visiting."
    THEY ARE ONE AND THE SAME YOU BRAINDEAD ZEALOUT F***. It's the same as saying, we don't know what you're reading on a website, but we know which websites you're reading. The argument that retaining metadata is not an invasion of privacy is categorically false. If, for example, the URL reading order is something like this:
    Then maybe, JUST MAYBE the person reading them has had an unwanted pregnancy and is looking to terminate it. How is that not an invasion of privacy?

    A new digital era is emerging in this country, one where every internet user is a terror suspect, ISPs are forced into being the new Copyright police, and everybody's internet is based on last century's technology. Sure was a good thing we gave these Coalition d***s the keys to the Lodge wasn't it?
    • At least they might make it work.

      Of course if Labour was still in power we would get much the same except Stephen Conroy would be in charge, it wouldn't work, it would be 5 years late and it would cost 10 times the forecast price. And it would confuse your phone data with somebody interstate because the design of the scheme was so rushed that they forgot to include an area code in the database.
      • Why was it abhorrent before?

        If the Conroy filter was so abhorrent, why is this okay? You Liberal apologists and Labor bashers do really suffer from a severe logical disconnect from reality don't you...

        How many years late do you think the current MTM NBN is going to be? They have essentially stopped all work on the rollout, and Ziggy has already said that the rollout to get it completed on time that Turnbull wants is not going to be feasible.

        How about you stop blaming Labor for everything and actually look at what your beloved Liberals have done to some amazing policies that would have benefitted everyone, and not just their mates in big business.
  • Five Eyes

    If you live in one of the Five Eyes countries (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand), your freedom and privacy are being stolen piece by piece by your government in the name of fighting terrorism.

    Hey, do you know what else would help fight terrorism? Door to door searches without warrants. Why don't we allow those too?

    The end never justifies the means.
  • Sad

    Very sad to see this seemingly unrelenting increase in mass surveillance and retention. USA, UK, Australia...

    I have nothing to hide. But I really do not appreciate any government dictating that my browsing history be captured and retained as a matter of course.
  • between this and google

    There wont be any privacy on the net for the average person before. At least up until now you just had to avoid google to have some semblance of privacy, but this will knock even that on its head.
  • Seriously,

    The Gestapo, KGB, CIA, ASIO / ASIS, MI 1to6 I'm starting to wander as to the distinctions. You could use the good vs bad analogy, but really what is the difference. You have no privacy what so ever! even the onus of proof is starting to shift, guilty till granted innocence.

    Over reaction, maybe. But what specific freedoms have been granted/returned since 9/11, none.

    If you want to create dissatisfaction within your community, suppress them. As usual the real crooks will continue to do what they do, while the odd amateur will be sacrificed to appease the masses, to justify the continuous erosion of freedoms.
    • Sad but

      it's almost enough to make you vote green.
  • Reads Too Good to be True

    So, it most likely is. Mis-information in the media... again!
    Crashin Chris
  • Have they..

    ever heard of TOR?
  • What a joke.

    Here we have a government wanting to collect vast amounts of private data from average, innocent Australians while they allow tens of thousands of fraudulent visa holders to fly into Australia, many of who could be linked to terrorist organisations or organised crime. The leaked information on this from the Dep. of Immigration shows the department can't cope with this problem and stop the illegals from entering Australia.
    It looks like the government and the national security agencies are more interested in spying on the average Australian's activities than stopping a far greater threat of terrorists and criminals flying in on fraudulent documents undetected.
  • Dr. Ghostly

    Holy Jumping Jehosaphat - Hitler and his Nazis are back in full flight and the velcroed-on right wing shopkeepers and lawyers and business owners and farmers just didn't read the runes before their supposed allies gained office and gained power and all by lies and deception and shady dealings, and now they want to monitor all of us for what they see as rampant deceptions and shady dealings.
    They really must think Australians are stupid. Mind you, the Law of Averages suggest they may have a point - by definition half of the entire population has an IQ below average and they all voted for the Abbott Nazis. Oh Dear, Oh Dear. It will be too late to stop them soon, and why? Because we blinked and believed the new National Security lie.
    The Security folks already have all the powers they need to flush out terrorists instead of perving over the shoulders of the millions who watch a few tits and bums online now and then.
    Dr. Ghostly