Logging on to the Friendose site Photo Peter Holt / Daily Mercury
Logging on to the Friendose site Photo Peter Holt / Daily Mercury Peter Holt

Consumers could pay for govt data retention

CONSUMERS could be forced to pay the costs of the Abbott government's plans for the internet industry to retain its online data for two years.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday introduced the long-awaited data retention laws to parliament.

The laws would force all internet service providers to retain "metadata" for two years to allow intelligence agencies to access the information for investigations.

Data retained by the industry could then be used in intelligence investigations into cyber crime, child pornography and abuse and terrorism-related investigations.

Mr Turnbull said the data retained would be restricted to IP addresses, time, duration and receivers of phone calls, and similar information on internet activity, but not the content of web browsers or search histories.

However, the bill does not specifically list what data would be retained by ISPs including Telstra and iiNet, instead leaving it up to regulations determined by the minister, not through legislation.

But Mr Turnbull said the proposed laws would not actually change intelligence agency or federal police powers, and it was focussed on creating an "industry standard" for retaining metadata.

However, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who on Wednesday hosted iiNet and a host of industry and metadata experts to a forum on the subject, said it was effectively a "new surveillance tax".

Industry insiders at the forum, who had not yet seen the bill, questioned the proposals and whether the cost would be borne by the private sector of the government.

While Sen Ludlam said consumers would likely end up paying, Mr Turnbull said the government would contribute, but did not provide a figure.

He said the bill was an "outrageous attack on Australians' fundamental right to privacy" and it had been rejected by the majority of industry, civil liberties groups and the media.

Sen Ludlam said similar laws put in place in the European Union had also been rolled back as they were found to violate human rights.

The bill has been referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for examination and is expected to be debated in the next sitting week in late November.