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Data Retention: Oz Agencies Swoop On 295,000 Cases

Law enforcement agencies sought access to information covered by Australia’s data retention regime on more than 295,000 occasions in the financial year ended June 2018, the latest government report has revealed.

Under the data retention regime, introduced in 2015, telecommunications companies must retain all data for at least two years.

Agencies including federal, state and territory police forces, the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, can apply for access to those records, where it’s believed possible criminal affairs may be involved.

Generally agencies cannot listen to recordings of actual conversations, but can discover who was ringing whom, when and for how long.

Even that amount of information can be extremely valuable to the authorities, it seems, given the 295,000 times they sought access in the 2017-18 year.

The majority of occasions where law enforcement bodies sought access to metadata related to drug offences, according to a Computerworld report.

On more than 67,000 occasions police sought access to data involving possible drug-related investigations. Another 3500 applications for data are said to have involved possible terrorism offences.

Other common categories of offences included possible homicide and fraud cases. And then there’s the matter of media investigations.

In 2017-18, Australian Federal Police reportedly ordered 58 telco data authorisations in relation to what were described as two journalist information warrants – presumed by observers to be linked to the notorious raids on the ABC and News Corp.

The ABC was raided over its reports on allegedly unlawful killings of unarmed men and children by Australian forces. The News Corp. case was about a reporter’s story on plans to expand the powers of intelligence agencies.

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