New South Wales’ Roads and Maritime Services is among the state and federal government agencies seeking to get ongoing access to data covered by the data retention scheme.
“RMS has submitted all relevant applications,” a spokesperson for the NSW government agency told Computerworld Australia.
Although the data retention legislation significantly reduced the number of agencies able to access historical telco data without a warrant using the provisions of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, there are provisions for more agencies to be authorised.
Agencies can be authorised either temporarily by the government or on an ongoing basis through parliament.
A recently released annual report on the operations of the TIA Act revealed a jump in warrant-free access to telco data.
In 2014-15, organisations authorised access to telco data a total of 365,728 times using the provisions of the act, up from 334,658 times in the prior year. The number of agencies also increased year-on-year, from 77 to 83.
The data retention scheme, which came into effect on 13 October, restricted the number of agencies able to authorise access to historical data (in addition to government agencies under the previous provisions of the TIA Act, certain non-government organisations such as the RSPCA were able to access data in some circumstances).
The data retention scheme covers a range of what the government has described as ‘metadata’, including information such as the time and date, duration and recipient of calls, the IP address associated with an individual’s Internet service, and the destination of emails.
Accessing the ‘content’ of a communication, such as the body of an email message, requires a warrant in most instances.
RMS accessed historical telco data five times in 2014-15, the TIA Act annual report revealed.
“Roads and Maritime Services accesses telco metadata when carrying out criminal investigations into breaches of the schemes it administers and has made the appropriate applications for authorisation since the changes to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth) were introduced,” a spokesperson for the agency told Computerworld.
“This is for dealing with matters involving heavy vehicles under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (NSW) dealing primarily with chain of responsibility investigations for mass/dimension/driver fatigue/road access and permit matters.”
“Also matters which fall under the Tow Truck Industry Act 1998 and the Passenger Transport Act 1990 and Passenger Transport Act 2014 to deal with issues about tow trucks, drivers, operators and networks of taxis, hire cars and buses in the public passenger transport industry,” the spokesperson added.
Agencies known to have applied for ongoing authorisation to access historical telco data include WorkSafe Victoria, Victoria’s Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner, and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.