A lack of clarity around how long telecommunications companies are required to retain customer phone records has already cost the law enforcement watchdog one investigation, it has said, and setting a mandatory retention period is crucial to maintain the investigative ability of the agency.
As debate rages over whether government agencies in Australia should continue to have the level of access to telecommunications customer billing information, addresses, and other such information without a warrant, law enforcement agencies have often said that their ability to complete investigations would be hindered were additional judicial oversight measures put in place. The law enforcement agencies have in the past been reluctant to detail specific cases where data retention was crucial to break a case.
Liberal democracies aren’t in the business of giving government bureaucrats more power because they ask for it. These recent calls for data retention aren’t the first and you can safely bet they won’t be the last. But it’s vital that this push for dragnet surveillance is resisted. Mandatory data retention poses a very real threat to online privacy, as the IPA explained when then Attorney-General Nicola Roxon first proposed such a regime in July 2012.