Greens propose to force IT companies to disclose govt agreements

The Australian Greens party has proposed requiring IT providers to release to customers the exact details of their agreements with foreign governments over the provision of customer data.

Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam has outlined the Greens party's policies for online privacy and security, unveiling five proposals aimed at protecting the private data of Australians.

Image: Greens

In the policy (PDF), released today, the Greens said that online rights are under threat as governments across the globe are blurring the lines between terrorism and journalism, civil disobedience, and healthy dissent in the wake of the leaking of confidential NSA documents about the secret spying program known as PRISM .

In addition to a strong opposition to the proposal to require internet service providers (ISPs) to store telecommunications metadata for up to two years, the Greens have also previously proposed requiring agencies to get a warrant before gaining access to the metadata the ISPs keep freely.

In the last financial year, government agencies accessed the data 293,501 times, but under the policy proposals, the Greens would like to see the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and other surveillance organisations that are currently exempt from reporting their numbers be forced to include their access authorisations in the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act annual report.

These agencies would also have their exemption from Freedom of Information law in Australia terminated.

The Greens party has additionally proposed strengthening Australia's data breach notification laws to require IT providers, operating both in and out of Australia, to disclose whether they have signed any agreements with foreign or domestic governments over the sharing of customer data.

"These companies should be required to identify the agency, the date of the agreement, the relevant documentation, and any follow-up documentation such as compliance reports, plus an annual report of how often information has been provided," the policy states.

In addition to sharing information, the Five Eyes — the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and New Zealand — should also sign an agreement that any shared intelligence only be kept within those five countries, and only be accessible with the approval of the host government.

The Greens, along with other online rights advocates parties such as Pirate Party Australia, are the only political parties discussing online privacy and security in this election. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis both confirmed to ZDNet that they will go into this election without making a decision on whether to bring in mandatory data retention or a range of other national security-related overhauls to telecommunications interception laws.

In a debate between Brandis and Dreyfus earlier this week, Brandis admitted that on the issue of national security, the Coalition and Labor are mostly in agreement.