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Data security breach highlights major flaw in data retention proposal

If you need convincing that the government’s proposed data retention regime is a terrible idea, look no further than this report ($) in The Australian:

THOUSANDS of sensitive files including National Crime Authority intelligence on suspects in unsolved murders, secret informants, undercover agents, drug operations and police corruption have been publicly available after an error by Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission.

The files, dozens of which have been reviewed at Queensland State Archives in Brisbane by The Australian in the past week, were the property of the Fitzgerald inquiry into corruption in the late 1980s and meant to stay secret until about 2055.

The files contain numerous unsubstantiated allegations of corruption, rigged trials, drug-smuggling and murders involving senior figures in business, the police, the judiciary and the underworld, some of whom are still prominent. Most of the material in the files was not aired at the Fitzgerald inquiry or in the subsequent criminal trials of people who were prosecuted.

Many confidential informants, protected witnesses, top police, Fitzgerald inquiry staff and investigators, legal and judicial figures, journalists and editors named in the documents are still alive. The files contain secret tip-offs from named informants about serious crimes.

This is an astonishing breach of confidentiality. And this is an organisation whose job it is to protect documents like this. The added concern when it comes to data retention is that the government is forcing companies that don’t have data security expertise to collect and store huge amounts of private information.

John M Green has written a very good article in Business Spectator today, highlighting this major practical problem:

But leaping from Brisbane to Canberra, this Keystone Cops debacle provides another stunning reason to oppose the federal government’s plan to force internet and phone companies to keep the public’s most private information for two years, sitting on their servers as data mines for spooks like these.

Simply, it now seems that no one can be trusted to protect this very private data, not even our most trusted investigative bodies.

It’s not just hackers, snoops and perves we the public have to worry about but, it seems, slack public officials expressly charged with keeping secrets secret.

The government’s proposed data retention regime is currently being considered by a joint parliamentary committee.

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