Metadata still "spying" on people, says Pirate Party

Pirate Party Australia has said tracking and storing metadata is "spying on innocent people".

Pirate Party Australia has criticised the Attorney-General’s letter to a parliamentary committee to “clarify” proposals around data retention.

A Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) is currently carrying out an inquiry to consider proposals for reforms for telecommunications interception, telecommunications sector security and Australian intelligence community legislation.

Roxon stated in a recent letter to the committee that the proposals include retaining telecommunications data such as identifying information about the sender and receiver, the date and time of the communication, its duration, location and type of communication – not the content of communications, such as emails and phone calls.

A submission to the committee from ASIO was also made public yesterday, backing Roxon by stating data retention does not include tracking the content of communication. If law enforcement agencies wish to access the content of communications, it requires warrants, according to ASIO.

However, Pirate Party Australia is critical of law enforcement agencies accessing not just the content of communication, but also accessing 'metadata'.

“While this may seem harmless, knowing who is communicating with who can be just as revealing as the actual contents,” Brendan Molloy, secretary of Pirate Party Australia, said in a statement.

“By storing who you are communicating with, profiles can be built of individuals and communities. This is not reasonable surveillance, this is spying on innocent people.”

Molloy likened the retaining metadata to a “massive tracking scheme”.

“We are constantly sending data through Facebook, emails, text messages, and so on. There are obvious implications about storing where we were and when,” he said.

Pirate Party Australia also pointed out the EU Directive, which Roxon referred to in her letter, was also rejected in three EU member states – Germany, Romania and the Czech Republic – for being unconstitutional due to privacy infringements.

“Additionally, Sweden and Serbia have only implemented data retention for six months, not the two years the government’s discussion paper proposes,” Molloy said.

Pirate Party Australia has been a strong opponent to the proposals and has been running a petition against them.

The organisation also made a 31-page submission to the committee, raising potential privacy issues surrounding data retention.

“The collection of private data creates targets for those wishing to exploit the data for nefarious means,” it said in its submission.

Pirate Party Australia also questioned the proposed penalties for not complying with any future data retention laws.

“Another disturbing proposal in the terms of reference is the creation of a prison penalty for ‘failure to assist in the decryption of communications’ which is a direct assault of a person’s right to remain silent when being questioned or placing a person at risk of criminal charges for failing to perform a task that is beyond their control,” it said.

Pirate Party Australia stated it will consider making a supplementary submission to the committee in response to Roxon’s letter.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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The Pirate Party failed to mention that metadata will still contain information about the websites you visit.

Let's hope health insurers don't somehow get a hold of your metadata and discover that you did infact visit a website addressing the symptoms of a condition you had which you failed to disclose to them.

Watched a YouTube video of overseas protests or violence against police officers (even if by mistake)? Congratulations! You're now on a watchlist as a potential trouble maker since clearly you take an interest in the dissent of authority.

It doesn't really surprise me that people don't understand just how valuable metadata can be.

Alexander Robertson


From Wikipedia:
"The term metadata is ambiguous, as it is used for two fundamentally different concepts (types)."

First bloody line, and its bloody right.

Metadata can mean anything. This is just classic misdirection from the main issue here. I love how our Attorney Generals department loves to play Chinese whispers with other countries and their departments but fails to listen to their own people.

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