A similar data retention law went before the European Union Court of Justice earlier this year and was struck down for its violations of human rights. At the time, the court called the mandate “an interference with the fundamental rights of practically the entire European population.”
Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said mandatory data retention laws introduced in the United Kingdom were “dangerous” and “disturbing.”
Yet despite the recent global pushback against warrantless surveillance, Abbott has said that the government should do “whatever is possible” to keep Australians safe.
The bill follows in the foreboding footsteps of another proposal that passed last month that enables security agencies to monitor the Australian internet with just one warrant and threatens whistleblowers and journalists with 10-year prison sentences for disclosing classified information. Other laws, including one that would allow people to be detained without charge as a “preventive” measure and put indefinite gag orders on reporting of those lock-ups, are currently being considered in the Senate.
Freedom of the Press Foundation, Committee to Protect Journalists, and Electronic Frontier Foundation previously warned that those new powers would drastically impact journalism and free speech in the country.
“Censorship and mass surveillance have no place in enlightened democracies,” said Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
EFF international director Danny O’Brien added, “None of these laws make Australians safer: by capturing and hoarding their private data, widening the government’s secret powers, and silencing dissent, they all contribute to weakening the digital security of innocent citizens, and destroying the checks and balances that rein back spooks and the executive that thinks it controls them.”
In their opposition to the proposal, Stop the Spies is joined by Citizens Not Suspects, a collaborative effort by Electronic Frontiers Australia and GetUp.org, which notes that “a mandatory, society-wide data retention regime represents a massive invasion of the privacy of all Australians.”
“There are already more than sufficient powers available to Australia’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies to have information retained about communications involving ‘persons of interest’,” Citizens Not Suspects states. “There is no justification for this information to be retained on the rest of society.”
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