Data retention: Government agrees to detail data set in legislation

The government has agreed to set out in its data retention bill exactly what customer data telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers will need to store.

In its current form, the bill only sets out the general types of data and the actual set of data to be retained would be detailed through regulation.

A statement issued this afternoon by Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcom Turnbull said the government endorsed all 39 of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security's recommendations.

The PJCIS last week issued its report on the data retention bill, with the introduction of the bill receiving bipartisan support from committee members.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten last week claimed that Labor hadn't "reached a final position" on the proposed legislation.

"I have reason to believe the government will accept Labor's propositions and will amend their initial legislation so we can get the balance right," Shorten said during a doorstop interview before the PJCIS report's release.

The government's decision to accept all of the report's recommendations makes it unlikely that Labor, which has backed the Abbott government's previous tranches of national security legislation, will move to stymie the introduction of data retention.

The PJCIS recommendations do little to change the substance of the data retention regime pushed by the government.

The recommendations include enforcing the encryption of data held by telcos, limiting the use of the data in civil litigation, and provisions for individuals to obtain access to the metadata they generate.

The government also accepted a recommendation to introduce a mandatory data breach notification scheme before the end of 2015.

The report did not propose amendments to reduce the impact of data retention on journalists' ability to protect the confidentiality of their sources, but recommended a review of the regime's impact on the media.

A statement issued last week by the journalists' union, the Media, Entertainment Arts Alliance, condemned the report's recommendation the data retention bill be passed.

"[W]hat is damning in the report is recommendation 27 which confirms that intent of the Bill is to pursue journalists’ sources," the MEAA statement said.

"It recommends the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security be copied when an authorisation is issued seeking to determine 'the identity of a journalist’s sources'. This suggests the Committee will allow government agencies to hunt through journalists’ metadata in pursuit of confidential sources."

"The Government agrees to refer the question of the appropriate approach to disclosure or use of telecommunications data to identify journalists’ sources to the Committee for further consideration," the statement issued today by Turnbull and Brandis said.

"The Government notes that Australia’s existing legal framework is founded on robust legal principles to provide fair and equal treatment of all subject to its laws."

Debate will commence on the data retention bill this week, the statement said.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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