Australia metadata retention law comes into effect, data held for 2 years

13 Oct 2015

Australia’s controversial metadata retention law has now come into effect, meaning that the location of its citizens, quantifying of data sent and received and their IP addresses will be logged for at least two years.

The Australia metadata retention law was previously passed through the country’s parliament by the then communications minister, now prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who described it at the time as a crucial security measure for both law agencies and counter-terrorism.

In its explanation page, the Australian government said that fears that have been raised about a ‘Big Brother-like’ state where all its citizen’s activities and conversations are monitored are unfounded.

Rather, it promises that it will not hold information such as people’s browsing histories or the content of calls or messages and video services, including Skype.

However, the law’s enactment has not gone down particularly well with a significant number of Australians who, as part of the Get Up! online movement, say the laws are much more far-reaching than simply crime and terrorism.

“The scheme, which was recklessly rushed through Parliament by the Liberals and Nationals with Labor’s support, is costly, ineffective, and against the public interest,” Get Up!’s page said.

“Absurdly, the flawed legislation leaves open numerous loopholes, which can be used to evade the data retention. This means the data retention dragnet will capture the data of innocent Australians and cost millions of dollars, while allowing those who don’t want to be caught to remain hidden.”

Snowden weighs in

According to the BBC, there are also fears that the government may wish to expand the remit of this metadata retention law sometime in the future.

When the bill was passed back in March, opposition to the bill was limited, with it passing by 43 votes to 16, with the majority of opposition coming from the Australian Green Party.

For service providers, non-compliance with the metadata retention will cost them AU$2m, while a two-year jail sentence will be handed down to anyone caught revealing information about instances of metadata access.

Also adding his criticism, Edward Snowden has tweeted his criticism of the law, calling on Australians and other nations that have similar metadata retention laws to use services like Tor to anonymise their browsing data and browsing habits.

Australia online image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic