Australia wants to hold web records longer because of Snowden

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AUSTRALIAN LAW ENFORCEMENT is using Edward Snowden's surveillance revelations as an excuse to store web data for at least two years.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) made its plans known in a note to the Australian Parliament, with the support of the Northern Territory Police, Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission and Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Australian equivalent of the British Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) or US National Security Agency (NSA) made its request in a submission about changes to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA Act).

It said its concern is that recent incidents and changes have altered the security landscape, adding new challenges and problems.

"With the development of communications technology, however, the Act is in danger of no longer sufficiently fulfilling either of its key objectives and its oversight arrangements are, in part, fragmented and incomplete," it said.

Among other plans, the ASIO apparently asked for authorisation to retain records of internet activities for at least two years.

"The privacy protections in the Act, although strong, require future-proofing to keep pace with the changes in technology. Similarly, the lawful access regime has not fully adapted to the use of modern communications technologies by serious criminals, organised criminal groups, terrorist networks and foreign intelligence services."

Edward Snowden's NSA surveillance revelations also bothered the ASIO, which, it worried, have encouraged a more security aware culture where people are encrypting their communications.

"These changes are becoming far more significant in the security environment following the leaks of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.... Since the Snowden leaks, public reporting suggests the level of encryption on the internet has increased substantially," it added.

"In direct response to these leaks, the technology industry is driving the development of new internet standards with the goal of having all web activity encrypted, which will make the challenges of traditional telecommunications interception for necessary national security purposes far more complex."

The civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Australia was not keen about this and reminded the government, "We are citizens, not suspects," in a Twitter message.

ASIO is not the only body to have thrown its opinions into the discussion and other organisations, including the Australian Party have also responded to the consultation on telecoms.

The Pirate Party wants to use the time to reflect on Australian surveillance and the ASIO's relations with overseas intelligence agencies.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) wants a more hands-off approach than is presently taken, and also mentioned Snowden's revelations as a reason for change.

"The widespread data surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, the subsequent treatment of whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Snowden, and the detaining of David Miranda, [have] created an environment that requires journalists to be mindful in how they interact with confidential sources, protect confidential information and journalism that is in preparation for broadcast or publication, and how they can protect their sources, colleagues, family and friends," it wrote.

"MEAA believes that any moves to increase the level of surveillance of Australians' private communications, whether through telephone intercepts, the collection of metadata, or other intrusive means, is a dangerous threat to press freedom in a modern, healthy and functioning democracy." µ

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