Australia’s metadata laws could soon be expanded to include civil cases

Public still has time to reject proposed changes

If you recall the moment Australia’s current data retention laws were introduced back in 2015, you may also remember that a lot of the opposing parties had expressed concerns about the new law. At the time, the laws were stated to be specifically aimed at terrorists and serious criminals, but civil liberties groups were concerned that this limited remit could easily snowball into something more expansive.

Now it seems like those fears could have been justified, as the Attorney-General’s Department has just announced a review into these laws, calling on members of the public to have their say on whether or not they should be extended to cover civil proceedings, with submissions closing January 17, 2017.

As they stand now, these laws require a mandatory two-year retention of users’ communications data by service providers, including information on phone calls, text messages and internet browsing sessions.


Change and how to stop it

According to information on the current law, “Data is used in almost every serious criminal or national security investigation, including murder, counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, sexual assault and kidnapping cases.” 

If this new review is successful, however, Australians could be seeing their data used in cases that cover everything from piracy to child support, signalling a massive shift towards absolute data retention.

It's a little sneaky (but perhaps unsurprising) that a review like this has been brought up several days before Christmas, when most people’s attention is focused elsewhere. 

There is still time for the public to act, however. Australian citizens have been asked to weigh in on this topic — so if you have concerns about the proposed changes, we’d strongly suggest having your say now. At this festive time of year, that January 17th deadline will be here and gone in a flash.