News Corp reported today that law enforcement agencies accessed the private data of Australian individuals about 541,300 times during the past 12 months. This is an estimated increase of about 60 percent compared to the previous year.
This is in addition to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) confirming on Friday that an officer had accessed phone records without a warrant earlier in the year. No action was taken against the officer.
The 2015 amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth) made it mandatory for telecommunications companies and internet service providers to retain metadata. This metadata can be accessed without a warrant by 21 government agencies, including the AFP.
However, journalists’ telecommunications data cannot be accessed by agencies without first obtaining a “Journalist Information Warrant”. An agency must apply to a Federal Court judge or a nominated Administrative Appeals Tribunal member to be granted the warrant.
The breach has sparked calls for an independent and public inquiry into the AFP, with Senator Nick Xenophon calling the incident “a complete failure with no real explanation”. Not the last we will hear about this issue we think. Read more about this here.