Other government reforms also "creepy", not just data retention, Ludlam says

Greens senator Scott Ludlam has said there are other issues in the federal government’s proposals for intelligence and security reforms, besides data retention, which are “creepy”.

A parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security is currently carrying out an inquiry to consider proposals for reforms for telecommunications interception, telecommunications sector security and Australian intelligence community legislation.

While the most contentious proposals have been those associated with data retention, Ludlam said there are also other alarming proposals as well.

For example, “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 at the Internet Governance Forum in Canberra today.

However, Ludlam said his main issue is with the proposals around data retention, which includes "tailored data retention periods for up to two years for parts of a data set", and has been a long-standing opponent of the data retention proposals.

He has previously stated the proposals had a “dodgy premise” and that the government was only paying “lip service” on the proposals.

Ludlam again today reiterated his concerns with the proposals, stating it was a “dangerous proposition” and there was a risk that criminals would shift their activities and modes of communication to other mediums which are not subject to data retention.

“But for the rest of the Australia population, this proposal is to subject all of us to a form of mild, blanket, real-time surveillance – and it’s not on. It is utterly inappropriate and the thinking behind it I think I find the most objectionable when you hear it defended in the North Korean terms of ‘but if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear’,” he said.

One of Ludlam’s points of contention with the proposals is the lack of a paper trail associated with requests for information. For example, warrants are required to name suspects and leave a “paper trail”.

However, he said there have been a quarter of a million requests for metadata which have not required warrants, compared to 3000 warrant requests for phone taps.

“So all of that intimate detail, including your latitude and longitude, if you’re carrying [phones] around, is being vacuumed up at an enormous rate by a much larger range of agencies that do not need to allege any criminal conduct whatsoever,” Ludlam said, with Telstra recently revealing organisations such as the RSPCA, Melbourne Council and the Blacktown anti-dumping authority have all requested metadata from Telstra.

“There are more than 200 people in the federal police authorised to stamp those applications for fishing expeditions to vacuum up the private data of Australian citizens…” Ludlam said.

“I would … encourage participants here today to respond formally – and my request would be forcefully – so that the government is left in no uncertain terms aware of the views not just of the tech sector but of ordinary Australian citizens about proposals like that.”

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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