Is Australia's data retention idea that scary?

Is Australia's data retention idea that scary?

Summary: Is the government really talking about recording all your web browsing? Is the European Directive on Data Retention, which the government is using as an example of what it could adopt, really benign?


Is the government really talking about recording all your web browsing? Is the European Directive on Data Retention, which the government is using as an example of what it could adopt, really benign? The idea itself certainly seems scary enough to be part of a privacy inquiry.

As ZDNet Australia has reported previously, the Attorney-General's Department has been holding confidential discussions with internet service providers about the possibility of recording details of your internet usage for later potential use by law enforcement agencies.

While there have been concerns that this could amount to recording web browsing history, the government insists that's not on the agenda, and have been pointing to the European Directive on Data Retention as a model.

So what is this directive? Apparently it's somewhat controversial itself. To explain what it's about we speak with Gunther Bloemen, Practice lead for EMEA with Verizon Business in Brussels. Does it enable the recording of your web browsing? It depends on how you look at it.

Given the questions raised by the government's data retention ruminations and recent privacy problems for Facebook and Google, the Senate has launched a privacy inquiry.

The inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts is calling for evidence on "the adequacy of protections for the privacy of Australians online". Submissions to the inquiry close 23 July.

It was initiated by the Greens, and on Patch Monday this week Greens Senator Scott Ludlam explains the party's concerns.

Patch Monday also includes Stilgherrian's idiosyncratic look at some of the week's IT news headlines.

To leave an audio comment for Patch Monday, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time 26 minutes, 24 seconds

Topics: Google, Government, Government AU, Privacy, Security, Social Enterprise


Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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  • Is the government keeping a record of everything you've ever googled scary? Or every webpage youve ever clicked on? So just why do they want to do this? When would it have ever been in the publics interest? I think Australia needs to stand up and say enough is enough.
  • It isn't that it is scary. I would rather that they explain why they need this.
  • This is part of a government agenda to enslave the population into intimidation. The goverment has labelled the entire population as criminal. it has an evil agenda and this is nothing short of extremism. This type of surveillance is not warranted on a free world that clearly the government along with corporations seek to destroy. This is part of the new world order globalisation.
  • Many people in Aus and Europe seem to be confused about what the governments want. the European / British system is designed for weblogs and emails to be scanned offline for key phrases or words and that would then flag up a warning for the security services. It is primarily an anti-terrorism measure. I can't see why anyone, except criminals and terrorists would be worried. Unless, of course they are doing something illegal on the web.
  • Johnny, what then stops the next government searching through records for words related to drug use? (Afterall, we all could be drug dealers) Or blasphemy? Or homosexuality? Or Communism? (All were 'in their day' the big threats to society as a whole)

    The internet will soon be the centrepiece of the majority of commerce and communication. Soon all telephone calls will be routed through the internet, all bill paying, all it right that any corporation/government has access to all that? Especially if it is "just in case".

    Would you consent to having your home and office bugged to listen to all conversations "just in case"? Would you consent to having a GPS installed to track where and when you go to places "just in case"?

    The need for this is tenuous at best - terrorists and criminals already hide as much as possible from governments, thus the sort of data retention they are talking about will likely provide little that would bring down a terrorist cell. Plus all a half clever terrorist needs to do is use codewords and suddenly the bomb planted at parliment house becomes "the flowerpot has been planted at Polly's house, she'll be surprised at 4:30pm."

    Finally the kind of data crunching and data storage required for such an analysis is mind boggling both in cost and sheer size. The money would be better spent on funding actual police/undercover agents.
  • It is no longer innocent until proven guilty - you are now guilty until proven innocent!
    "The Man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either." - Benjamin Franklin
  • If we ignore it's a government considering this scheme, who can make their own laws, wouldn't this breach the Privacy Act? You're only allowed to collect relevant information, which rules out 90% of the googletubemyface traffic...

    Seriously, there's no point spending a fortune to gather huge volumes of data. If it's only going to be used when 'necessary' it's useless 99% of the time. If you're constantly going to mine it then there is too much data to deal with.
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • This was the process that Hitler used in the 1930's to incrementally change perceptions and have full control over the population. These are only minor changes. You have nothing to fear if you are a good citizen.
    He didn't have the command of communications that modern governments have, and want to expand.
    It is almost like George Orwell had written a training manual for future governments.......
    'Nuff said!