Australian citizens are facing a growing threat from government agencies at home and abroad trying to access their data without a warrant after the number of requests rose by 3,000 over the past six months.
Data from Telstra, the country’s largest telecommunications company, shows that it received 39,395 requests for data from the Australian government in the first six months of the year to June 2014 – an increase from 36,053 in the previous period.
International agencies also asked for access to data of “less than 100” Australians without a warrant over the past 12 months, stated Telstra’s transparency report, with phone, Internet and email logs among the data to be requested.
“These records include information such as details of a called party and the date, time and duration of a call,” Telstra posted on their website, according to The Guardian (opens in new tab). “Internet session information includes the date, time and duration of internet sessions as well as email logs from Bigpond addresses. The government has stated URLs are considered to be content and as such they will only request to access this information under a warrant or other court order.”
Currently communications companies must comply with the requests under the Telecommunications [Interception and Access] Act 1979 that states local, state and federal agencies can ask for personal data from telecommunications firms without a warrant. This does come with the advisory that no content can be disclosed and only a record of who, when and where someone communicated with another person.
Firms Down Under have been issuing transparency reports since earlier on this year in response to public criticism over how much information was being provided to government agencies.
Australia’s government is pushing for a new mandatory data retention scheme that would force telecommunications companies to retain various different types of data including subscriber details, destination of information, source of information, the type of device being used, and the date and time the communication takes place.
The country isn’t alone in applying for new powers to snoop on citizens and it comes barely two months after UK Prime Minister David Cameron rushed through a controversial data retention bill that forces companies to gather data on phone calls and messages.