Watchdog highlights data access issues

·1-min read

A number of police and anti-corruption bodies are lagging when it comes to meeting obligations regarding data storage from communications taps.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman's annual report of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act found a string of problems with some of Australia's most prominent law enforcement agencies.

They include agencies not record-keeping correctly and warrants being issued by ineligible authorities.

The ombudsman made two recommendations and 22 suggestions to the Australian Federal Police regarding stored communications from intercepts, noting the watchdog was not satisfied the agency adhered to requirements.

Victoria Police was found to have poor record-keeping practices. It told the ombudsman that in two of its three areas that use telecommunications data power, it destroyed documents explaining why it had applied for intercepts after they were sent.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission was told it needs to do more to show its officers meet requirements for telecommunications data authorisations.

The ombudsman said the commission had acted on requests with "insufficient information".

The report also found carriers provided data not authorised for disclosure, with some agencies showing "poor or no data vetting" procedures to ensure it is identified. This meant some agencies received data they were not legally entitled to without realising it.

The ombudsman found a number of issues regarding Journalist Information Warrant controls, designed to protect journalist sources in the public interest while also being able to investigate wrongdoing.

The ombudsman suggested Queensland's Crime and Corruption Commission seek legal advice when its requests potentially relate to journalists.

The report said Tasmania Police accessed phone data without taking sufficient steps, with the organisation unable to provide records showing it had considered warrant controls before requesting and accessing data.

The report was tabled in federal parliament on Wednesday.