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Commission welcomes changes on ‘metadata law’

Graphic: Data displayed on computer screen

A parliamentary committee has made 22 recommendations to improve human rights and other protections, reflecting issues raised by the Commission.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has welcomed recommendations for reform of the mandatory data retention regime (known as the 'metadata law').

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has made 22 recommendations to improve human rights and other protections following its review of the metadata law.

The PJCIS report proposes better reporting requirements and tighter restrictions on authorisation for accessing metadata – both of which were recommended in the Commission's submission.

However, it stops short of introducing a mandatory warrant system for metadata.

"I am pleased to see the recommendations for reform outlined in the PJCIS report," said Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow.

"The Commission made a submission to the review outlining four key recommendations for reform and also gave evidence at a PJCIS hearing. The final report addresses many aspects of our recommendations," he said.

"When this legislation was introduced, it was said to be necessary to combat 'serious criminal offences' such as murder. But in practice the law has allowed access to personal data for other purposes, including the enforcement of fine debts or to protect public revenue.

"The Commission recommended that the law be tightened so that it permitted access to people's communications data only for investigating serious crimes and only by law enforcement bodies, not by the range of other bodies currently enabled to do so. We note the PJCIS has largely agreed with this.

"However, the Commission would still prefer a warrant system be put in place, to ensure that there is full, independent oversight of the use of these intrusive powers."

The Commission's submission on the mandatory data retention regime is available online.

Date: 29 October 2020

Image credits

  1. Data displayed on computer screen - Markus Spiske on Unsplash