PRIVACY ON THE NET. SHOULD WE WORRY?
Would you be happy to have your Internet history made available to law enforcers to track your activity?
It may sound rather harmless techno speak: “data retention”. But critics say it amounts to constant government surveillance of the civilian population and “Gestapo tactics“.
They see forcing Internet service providers to store our web history for the benefit of law enforcement as a serious infringement of our freedoms. This is the spectre of an insidious Big Brother electronically keeping tabs on every move we make, every email we send.
However, those at the sticky end of crime fighting – especially cyber crime fighting – say data retention for two years is an essential tool. Without it, telcos and internet service providers can delete our telecommunications at will.
The two sides are now pitted against each other as a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security examines controversial proposals to change Australia’s national security legislation.
The Attorney General, Nicola Roxon seems to have shifted ground on the most controversial of the proposals. A few months ago she questioned why data retention was needed at all.Attorney General, Nicola Roxon
”I am not yet convinced that the cost and the return – the cost both to industry and the [civil liberties] cost to individuals – that we’ve made the case for what it is that people use in a way that benefits our national security” she told Fairfax media.
That was then. This is now.
”Many investigations require law enforcement to build a picture of criminal activity over a period of time. Without data retention, this capability will be lost,” she said.
The Australian Federal Police High Tech Crime chief, Neil Gaughan would be chuffed. He’s long called for data retention laws in Australia, similar to those that exist in most European jurisdictions, Argentina and the United States.
What does the AFP see as the threat?
The internet is the new battleground in the fight against child exploitation, terrorism and cyber crime. Criminals are changing the way they plan their hacking attacks and encryption technology has given them the upper hand, Gaughan says.
“Encryption is extremely difficult for us. It’s very expensive, very clunky, very slow to decode encrypted internet protocols. What the Act is asking is for is that companies be required to provide law enforcement with decoded information so that we don’t have to go through that clunkiness.”
The AFP also wants the ability to install tracking software on a suspect’s computer and snoop in on social networking and Skype communications.
But, controversially, Gaughan argues data retention is essential to tracking criminal activity.
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