Push for more transparent metadata scheme

Rebecca Gredley
·1-min read

Australia's mandatory data retention regime should be more transparent and harder for the information to be accessed, a powerful parliamentary committee argues.

The regime requires telcos to keep the phone and internet access records of customers for two years so they can be accessed by security and policing agencies.

In a report released on Wednesday the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has made 22 recommendations to the scheme.

They include having the Department of Home Affairs create national guidelines for enforcement agencies to ensure clarity, consistency and security in regards to requests for data.

The committee believes access to the data should only be available under specific circumstances.

The relevant laws currently allow for very broad access.

"Our recommendations are aimed at improving mandatory data retention in a way that does not have a great effect on law enforcement and ASIO's ability to do their very important work,' committee chair and government MP Andrew Hastie said.

"Importantly, the committee has not recommended any change to the existing two year period of data retention."

Committee member and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said agencies don't need a warrant to access the data, so the powers to get the information had to be subject to rigorous oversight.

"And that they only be exercised in appropriate circumstances by properly qualified individuals," he said.

"To that end, as this report makes clear, all committee members agree that the mandatory data retention regime is not currently up to scratch and a number of changes need to be made."

Telstra has previously called for some private metadata access to be denied, as many requests involved matters like traffic offences, unlawful removal of trees and illegal rubbish dumping.