Thursday the Australian Attorney-General's Department confirmed rumors that the local government is considering keeping tabs on Internet users. Currently talks are underway with ISPs in regards to a plan for data retention that would force the Internet providers to keep their customers' web browsing history and emails for between six to twenty-four months. This would allow law enforcement officials to access the data when needed.
"They seem quite intent [on implementing the regime] and they keep throwing up the words 'terrorism' and 'pedophiles'," reports one unnamed ISP representative. "We're talking browsing history and emails, way beyond what I would consider to be normal SMS, retaining full browsing history and everything."
Currently ISPs don't log or retain the browsing habits of subscribers unless local officials have provided a judge-approved interception warrant. However the newly proposed regime would eliminate that process, a movement deemed as "scary" and "very expansive." One industry source even said that Australians should "be very f***ing afraid."
Naturally the proposal is meeting opposition, especially from the Electronic Frontier Australia (EFA). Chairman Colin Jacobs said that the regime was a bit much. "At some point data retention laws can be reasonable, but highly-personal information such as browsing history is a step too far," Jacobs said. "You can't treat everybody like a criminal. That would be like tapping people's phones before they are suspected of doing any crime."
Although the Senate passed a Bill back in February that allowed ISPs to intercept traffic as part of "network protection activities," an additional Bill would be required for the data retention plan to be set into place. With elections on the horizon, this new legislation may take a while to come into fruition.