Australian Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, has released a discussion paper on potential reforms of National Security Legislation. One of the proposals up for discussion is the retention of telecommunications data for two years.
It’s a proposal that has been pushed by law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world for a while now. There have been similar proposals here in the UK, other EU countries and the US.
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis and other places, law enforcement agencies are scanning licence plates using infrared and storing the data from these scans for up to a year to help with investigations into a range of criminal offences. You can listen to On the Media‘s podcast about it which I highly recommend.
This licence plate data is also being shared with insurance companies which is consistent with the alarming growth in the flow of potentially sensitive information from Government to Business which, amongst other things, are far less accountable.
Privacy has limits. If you are being investigated for criminal offences, then it is reasonable that law enforcement get permission (ie a warrant) to investigate you. So I would be less concerned about the retention of telecommunications data or licence plate scans if it was only the data pertaining to a criminal investigation that was being retained. But it’s not, it’s every bit of data.
Which brings me to Victoria’s acting Privacy Commissioner, Anthony Bendall‘s, response to the data retention proposal:
Not only does this completely remove the presumption of innocence, which all persons are afforded, it goes against one of the essential dimensions of human rights and privacy law: freedom from surveillance and arbitrary intrusions into a person’s life.
The presumption of innocence is pretty fundamental, I’m sure you agree and yet another reason to remain vigilante about privacy.