For most Australians, privacy is of utmost importance. Even so, the Australian government has laws in place that require organisations to retain certain information about you. The government then has the right to access that information.
Not exactly sure what it all means? Here are some questions and answers that should help:
Can data retention laws trump privacy laws?
It is tempting to think that privacy is more important than the government’s right to access information about you. Think about certain important criminal or national security matters and it’s easy to understand that authorities need to have access to some of our information.
Why are data retention laws necessary?
If data retention laws are not in place, some telecommunications services would simply not keep the kinds of records that are important for certain investigations. With laws in place, records that can help solve cases and achieve convictions against criminals are retained.
Are my actual conversations recorded?
Some people have concerns that their actual phone calls, or the content of their text messages, for example, are being recorded. This is generally not the case. For phone calls, only the numbers called and the length of the calls are recorded. The same is also true for emails.
What about my web browsing history?
Some Australians also have concerns that their internet browsing is being monitored. Again, this is generally not true for the average law-abiding Australian. The government can access a device’s IP address, which can help to identify an individual, but internet service providers do not need to retain or give up information about a customer’s actual browsing history.
What about social media usage?
The prevalence of social media use these days and the amount of information people share online might also be useful to authorities when it comes to investigations. However, internet providers are also not required to record or divulge this kind of information to the government.
Who can collect this data?
Only certain authorities can gain access to your telecommunications data, including police and other law enforcement agencies. In addition, other government branches can apply to gain access to this sort of data, including the ACCC.
How long is my data held for?
Data can be lawfully held and accessed for a period of up to two years. This length of time was determined by the duration of some complex and serious investigations, but the vast majority of investigations relate to data that is much more recent than two years.
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