Data access pushed to Border
The Federal Government has quietly expanded the already significant amount of agencies that are allowed unwarranted access to the private data of all Australians.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection can now access Australians’ metadata, after the Government amended controversial legislation passed just two months ago.
Under the mandatory data-retention legislation, government agencies can access information including stored call records, assigned IP addresses, location information, and other personal data under the pretence of investigating breaches of the law.
When the Australian Labor Party allowed the passing of the mandatory data-retention legislation in March, their support was contingent on amendments to the legislation, which forced the parliament to approve the addition of any new agencies seeking access to the stored data.
The original legislation allowed the attorney-general to add agencies more easily.
The latest amendment came through quietly, attached to the Customs and Other Legislation Amendment (Australian Border Force) Bill 2015, which was passed by the Australian parliament on Thursday.
The expanded Australian Border Force legislation is aimed at creating a “single front-line operational border control and enforcement entity” in the department.
Greens communications spokesperson Scott Ludlam slammed the rapidly-expanding list of agencies able to access untold troves of Australians’ personal information.
“[Attorney-General George] Brandis made a great show of narrowing the range of agencies that would be able to access this collected material. And here we are in parliament, on the very next sitting week after that mandatory data-retention Bill passed, and the first example of scope creep lies on the table today,” he said.
“Of course, the Australian Border Force wants to be able to scrape people's home and email records and find out who they have been talking to and where they were.
“This is the first instance of scope creep. It gives me absolutely no pleasure to say; ‘We told you so’, but we did; we said at the time of the data-retention debate that the Bill has scope creep written into it.”
Ludlam said that the Bill created a way to side-step the approval of the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Intelligence and Security to add agencies to the approved list.
“That is done by the turn of a switch: We will call them a criminal law-enforcement agency, and now they are added to the list of agencies that can go through our phone and email records - not just those of employees, not just asylum seekers, but anybody in the country,” he said.
Many commentators say there are big risks in the kind of unfettered access allowed to Australian Government agencies, given that the Department of Immigration has previously publishing the private details of 10,000 asylum seekers on its website, by accident, and also accidentally emailed the personal information of G20 world leaders to the Asian Cup Local Organising Committee.