Telcos renew calls to limit metadata retention

ASIO boss “doesn't understand” says iiNet's Dalby


Australian internet service provider (ISP) iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby has (once again) come out swinging against proposals in Australia to introduce a mass data retention regime, telling a senate committee that the head of ASIO doesn't understand what law enforcement is asking for.

Dalby was addressing the Senate Committee reviewing the Telecommunications Interception Act.

After discussing what the ISP considers to be potentially onerous and intrusive metadata storage requirements (which iiNet has put at costing more than $AU80 million), Dalby criticised what he believes are widespread misconceptions about metadata collection – particularly that it would be easy to accomplish, and that collecting “just metadata” is no more intrusive than looking at envelopes rather than the letters in them.

Dalby reiterated statements (and, for that matter, articles) he's previously made regarding how revealing metadata is, saying that in the online environment, metadata is “pervasive and intrusive”.

“Metadata reveals more about the individual than the content itself,” Dalby added.

ASIO inspector-general David Irvine was singled out for particular attention by Dalby over remarks he made last week to the same inquiry.

“I don't think he understands or has had advice that makes it clear to him what he's asking of the industry”, Dalby said to the committee.

Dalby also criticised inconsistent government messaging about the metadata question: while public statements from law enforcement and the attorney-general's department (under various political masters) suggest that the amount of metadata sought for storage would be minimal, the confidential brief that carriers and ISPs received two years ago suggested a far more extensive regime is under consideration.

“The inconsistent and contradictory messaging from government sources is unhelpful,” Dalby said.

He also remarked that the widespread belief that “service providers routinely engage in data retention for their business purposes” is “seriously overstated”. For example, what an ISP might collect (such as data usage to enforce quotas) is far less than tracking URLs, source and destination IP addresses, e-mail headers and the like.

The presentation used by iiNet at the hearing is here.

$AUD500 million industry bill

Earlier in the day, AMTA – the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association – pushed back against widespread reports that Australian carriers provide “cell dumps” or “tower dumps” to law enforcement.

Such “dumps” refer to agencies requesting that carriers record and provide all activity at a particular mobile phone base station, for a particular time, a practise that has caused controversy in the US.

AMTA's Chris Althaus said Australian carriers are more likely to respond to a request that stipulates an individual, based on the Telecommunications Interception Act and the Telecommunications Act.

Requests from agencies, Althaus said, generally ask for the location of a single individual handset.

“I understand that you do get requests sometime … you are asked to provide all the traffic that passed through that tower at that time?” asked committee chair Senator Scott Ludlam of the Greens.

“We request that agency to supply the handsets,” was the answer, “the telephone number of those handsets. We don't like the agencies fishing for information,” Althuas said. “We are very prescriptive in when we respond”.

AMTA and the Communications Alliance also put to the inquiry that the cost of industry-wide data retention would approach $AUD500 million.

The hawkish view of interception represented to the committee by former assistant secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security Stewart Baker, who said the right to privacy in America is a “bunch of peculiar laws”.

Baker said the failure to prevent terrorism is due to “an unholy alliance of business and privacy activists … making it very difficult even when you can see a disaster coming, to take action against that disaster.”

He also complained that Edward Snowden's leaks exposed US practises “in a fashion designed to create a bad reaction”. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • China is trolling rare-earth miners online and the Pentagon isn't happy
    Beijing-linked Dragonbridge flames biz building Texas plant for Uncle Sam

    The US Department of Defense said it's investigating Chinese disinformation campaigns against rare earth mining and processing companies — including one targeting Lynas Rare Earths, which has a $30 million contract with the Pentagon to build a plant in Texas.

    Earlier today, Mandiant published research that analyzed a Beijing-linked influence operation, dubbed Dragonbridge, that used thousands of fake accounts across dozens of social media platforms, including Facebook, TikTok and Twitter, to spread misinformation about rare earth companies seeking to expand production in the US to the detriment of China, which wants to maintain its global dominance in that industry. 

    "The Department of Defense is aware of the recent disinformation campaign, first reported by Mandiant, against Lynas Rare Earth Ltd., a rare earth element firm seeking to establish production capacity in the United States and partner nations, as well as other rare earth mining companies," according to a statement by Uncle Sam. "The department has engaged the relevant interagency stakeholders and partner nations to assist in reviewing the matter.

    Continue reading
  • California's attempt to protect kids online could end adults' internet anonymity
    Websites may be forced to verify ages of visitors unless changes made

    California lawmakers met in Sacramento today to discuss, among other things, proposed legislation to protect children online. The bill, AB2273, known as The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, would require websites to verify the ages of visitors.

    Critics of the legislation contend this requirement threatens the privacy of adults and the ability to use the internet anonymously, in California and likely elsewhere, because of the role the Golden State's tech companies play on the internet.

    "First, the bill pretextually claims to protect children, but it will change the Internet for everyone," said Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law professor, in a blog post. "In order to determine who is a child, websites and apps will have to authenticate the age of ALL consumers before they can use the service. No one wants this."

    Continue reading
  • Is computer vision the cure for school shootings? Likely not
    Gun-detecting AI outfits want to help while root causes need tackling

    Comment More than 250 mass shootings have occurred in the US so far this year, and AI advocates think they have the solution. Not gun control, but better tech, unsurprisingly.

    Machine-learning biz Kogniz announced on Tuesday it was adding a ready-to-deploy gun detection model to its computer-vision platform. The system, we're told, can detect guns seen by security cameras and send notifications to those at risk, notifying police, locking down buildings, and performing other security tasks. 

    In addition to spotting firearms, Kogniz uses its other computer-vision modules to notice unusual behavior, such as children sprinting down hallways or someone climbing in through a window, which could indicate an active shooter.

    Continue reading
  • Arm says its Cortex-X3 CPU smokes this Intel laptop silicon
    Chip design house reveals brains of what might be your next ultralight notebook

    Arm has at least one of Intel's more capable mainstream laptop processors in mind with its Cortex-X3 CPU design.

    The British outfit said the X3, revealed Tuesday alongside other CPU and GPU blueprints, is expected to provide an estimated 34 percent higher peak performance than a performance core in Intel's upper mid-range Core i7-1260P processor from this year.

    Arm came to that conclusion, mind you, after running the SPECRate2017_int_base single-threaded benchmark in a simulation of its CPU core design clocked at an equivalent to 3.6GHz with 1MB of L2 and 16MB of L3 cache.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022