The Truth is in the Metadata

January 27, 2015
metadata data retention privacy online rights

It’s unusual that a business process not undergoing any changes would be flagged as having significantly increased costs for no apparent reason. Why then are Optus and Telstra urging the government to commit to paying costs associated with implementing a data retention scheme and driving Australia into a surveillance state?

Optus and Telstra must have been asleep when Malcolm Turnbull stated:

“The important thing to understand about this metadata bill, these amendments, is that it is not creating new classes of data to be retained… it’s about preserving the status quo.”

He isn’t the only one saying these sorts of things. Our beloved Attorney General George Brandis has repeatedly suggested that nothing will change in regards to the content carriage providers will be expected to keep under a data retention regime, despite Brandis or anyone for that matter, not even knowing what that final data set will be. Remember that Sky News interview George did?

So if no extra data sets are being retained and by extension no further burden of storage placed upon ISP’s and no changes to their current business practices, then why do so many of the submissions, including those from Optus and Telstra - talk about costs and who will pay for the scheme?

The answer of course is simply the most obvious. Brandis, Turnbull and Co. are lying in an attempt to stifle discussion and limit criticism of the surveillance proposal. To suggest that every single ISP in Australia, from big to small already retains exactly the same data sets is ridiculous. Business practices vary, billing and customer information kept differs depending on the ISP. Some don’t keep quota history at all, others keep it for a few months, others for a year. The differences are many, so nuanced and defined right down to the plan level and made even more complex if you are a commercial or residential customer so it is really no surprise that there is going to be a significant cost.

If Optus and Telstra, the big players in the telecommunications market are concerned they will need to spend to bring data retention to fruition, you can bet the financial impact is going to be an even larger burden on the smaller carriers.

Why are Brandis and Turnbull downplaying the financial impact of their surveillance scheme? Why aren’t they instead reaching out to ISP’s and offering to contribute the cash necessary to implement what they are claiming is a vital police resource to battle serious crime and terrorism. If it actually does what the AFP, ASIO and the Libs are claiming it will do, then they should be throwing money at it instead of lying about the cost and dumping it at the feet of the ISP’s expected to roll over like good puppies.

If Brandis and Turnbull are prepared to sign Australia up to the elite list of distinguished countries that boast a 247 blanket surveillance scheme, they should at least be men enough to stick to the facts. The truth is in the metadata, perhaps they should start there.