Nicola Roxon, Attorney-General, has attempted to quell concerns about data retention proposals by the federal government.
A parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security is currently carrying out an inquiry to consider proposals for reforms for telecommunications interception, telecommunications sector security and Australian intelligence community legislation.
One of the most contentious aspects of the proposals includes "tailored data retention periods for up to two years for parts of a data set".
With debate now raging over whether the data retention proposals are an invasion of privacy, Roxon stepped up her attempt to alleviate concern about the proposals in a letter to the editor in the Herald Sun, stating the government is not proposing to store the contents of emails and Facebook data.
“Telecommunications data includes such things as the time an email is sent and who it is sent to. It does not include storing the content of emails, tweets and posts,” she wrote in the letter.
“There is also no proposal to enforce people to give up passwords.”
In an interview on ABC 774 Melbourne earlier this week, Roxon said the proposals are for the purpose of keeping metadata – the time when data is sent and received, such as emails and phone calls – and said “people need a little bit of a cold shower” over the issue.
While Roxon stated in the letter she was not backing or opposing any of the proposals being put forward to the parliamentary committee, she said earlier this week that of criminal activity without data retention laws.
The data retention proposals have been met by strong resistance from the industry and consumers.
The Communications Alliance, Telstra, Optus, iiNet and Vodafone all expressed concern about the proposals this week, with John Stanton, CEO of the Communications Alliance, stating the proposals were “gloriously ill-defined in the discussion paper … [and] a data set can be an inch or a mile wide.”
In a joint submission to the parliamentary enquiry, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and the Communications Alliance have detailed data retention reforms could cost the industry over half a billion dollars.
Acting Victorian Privacy Commissioner, Anthony Bendall, has also slammed the data retention proposals as “characteristic of a police state”, while Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has continued to stand by his claims that the data retention laws should not be passed and it is treating every citizen as a suspect.
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