Senators plot metadata pushback as requests keep expanding

ACMA report reveals vast scale of access by agencies

On the heels of an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) report that Australia's carriers provided more than 582,000 items of information to law enforcement under Australia's telecommunications interception regime in 2014, cross-bench senators have announced they will hold a briefing on the issue at the end of October.

The ACMA disclosure, made in its 2013-2014 annual report (PDF here), is considerably higher than the roughly 300,000 requests disclosed via the Attorney-General's department (AGD) [ACMA's interception report is in Appendix 10 of the report].

However, the AGD has told both The Guardian and The Sydney Morning Herald that the higher number arose from differences in reporting requirements. In making their reports to the AGD, agencies disclose requests associated with individuals as a single request, even if the same request is sent to multiple carriers or service providers. The ACMA, on the other hand, compiles its report from carriers.

The discrepancy does, however, highlight the scale of law enforcement data collection already in place, at a time when the government plans to legislate the mass retention of telecommunications metadata.

Cross-bench senators Nick Xenophon and David Leyonhjelm and Greens senator Scott Ludlam have announced they will conduct a briefing on the topic at Parliament House on October 29. Their aim is to highlight the outstanding questions of privacy, cost and security, in light of the government's hopes to get its data retention scheme passed before the end of 2014. ®

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