Data retention plans slammed by IGF panel

Cyber criminals know how to cover their tracks and won’t be caught say experts

The Federal Government’s proposed two year data retention legislation has received a drubbing from legal and privacy experts who pointed out that groups like Anonymous use encryption and IP proxy techniques to avoid detection online.

Speaking during a panel session at the Internet Governance Forum in Canberra this week, Covington and Burling LLP partner Kurt Wimmer said the proposed legislation was an incursion on existing data protection rights.

“I have trouble seeing the notion that 22 million Australians need to be subjected to surveillance to capture whatever small percentage of criminals need to be found,” he said.

According to Open Government advocate Pia Waugh, there were a number of problems with the proposed data retention laws - the main one being that the 'bad guys' would not be caught.

Data retention has received vocal support from AFP assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan and ASIO, but Waugh said that any geek who is “misbehaving” knows how to encrypt and use proxies.

“Data retention won’t catch groups likes Anonymous,” she said.

.au Domain Administration (auDA) board member Cheryl Langdon-Orr likened the proposed laws to over-medicating a patient.

“This is the same rationale as `we think there might be a disease so we’re going to treat you with absolutely everything’,” she said.

“There is more than adequate ways of trapping the real bad guys when you have due process and proper suspicion.”

According to Langdon-Orr, there would be no transparency or accountability for the individual to have what she called informed consent. “How can we give away the rights of a whole community that they should have to know where their data is or isn’t collected or stored?”

Australian Privacy Foundation chair Roger Clarke added that while he supported the work of law enforcement agencies, his concern with the proposed legislation was that suspicions about a person could be based on anything they potentially looked at online--now or in the future.

“In the past, suspicion had to exist about a person before the big guns could be rolled out and interception could be achieved,” he said.

“We all support appropriate powers for law enforcement agencies but what is happening here is suspicions based on anything that turns out in the future to be a bad thing.”

Clarke added that Australians would lose their privacy forever unless they protested against “stupid things like this proposal.”

The panel’s views were backed by Greens Senator Ludlam, a longtime opponent of data retention, who also spoke at the forum.

He said that there were other proposals by the federal government which were also “kind of creepy.”

“Internet kill switches for targeted populations; the ability of ASIO to install malware on third-party computers who aren’t involved in investigations; the ability of intelligence agencies to commit crimes and then be forgiven for them behind the scenes-– there’s a bunch of other stuff coming up behind data retention that actually is also kind of creepy,” Ludlam said.

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