The Attorney-General’s Department has just released the latest Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 Report. The annual report lists the number of successful applications made by various government agencies for records held by internet and telecommunications service providers. The 2011/2012 report shows a marked increase in the amount of data obtained:
Government agencies accessed private telecommunications data and internet logs more than 300,000 times during criminal and revenue investigations in 2011-12, a 20 per cent increase on the level of surveillance activity in the year before.
Figures from the federal Attorney-General’s Department show that on average, these agencies obtained private data from telecommunications and internet service providers 5800 times every week.
Bureaucrats often find it difficult to do the right thing with our data. The logical response is to limit the number of agencies authorised to gain access to our private information. But the trend is in the opposite direction. This year’s report shows more than 50 agencies are getting access to data under the Act, and this number is an increase on previous years.
Some of the agencies that obtained data over the past year include the Australian Tax Office, Medicare, Australia Post and even the RSPCA.
All this data is accessed in the absence of warrants issued by a judge. So not only do these agencies get access to our data, they do so without proper legal oversight.
The trend of government quietly obtaining more and more of our communications data behind our backs is concerning and dangerous.