Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) is seeking temporary authorisation to access telecommunications information covered by the data retention regime, a spokesperson for the South Australian government department has confirmed.
During the 2014-15 financial year, PIRSA on 238 occasions sought access to so-called ‘metadata’.
Since the data retention scheme came into effect in October, the number of government agencies authorised to access warrant-free historical telecommunications data has been significantly reduced.
However, the data retention legislation included provisions to allow more agencies to be authorised either temporarily by the attorney-general or on an ongoing basis by parliament.
A declaration by the attorney-general lasts
only 40 sitting days of the lower house or Senate after the declaration
comes into force.
“PIRSA has applied to be temporarily declared as an enforcement agency following the enactment of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015,” a spokesperson for the department told Computerworld Australia.
In he past, historical telecommunications data had been used by PIRSA’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Operations area as an investigative tool, the spokespersons aid.
“This information has been used during investigations and prosecutions of offences under the Fisheries Management Act 2007 and the Aquaculture Act 2001,” the spokesperson said.
“The use of this information was generally used in cases of serious offending such as ‘Trafficking of a priority species’ and ‘Unlicensed commercial fishing’ which can carry penalties of up to $500,000 and/or four years imprisonment.”
Currently, agencies authorised to access historical telecommunications include state and federal police, a number of anti-corruption and anti-organised-crime bodies, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
However, some 45 other agencies are believed to have applied for access.
Organisations confirmed to be seeking for ongoing authorisation to access historical telco data include WorkSafe Victoria, Victoria’s Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and New South Wales’ Roads and Maritime Services.
In 2014-15, organisations authorised access to telco data a total of 365,728 times using the provisions of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, up from 334,658 times in the prior year.
The number of agencies accessing data also increased year-on-year, from 77 to 83.