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Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the iappANZ President, January 9, 2015 Related reading: How synthetic data can help accelerate AI


With Anna away this week, it is my opportunity to wish you all a happy new year. On behalf of iappANZ, we hope that you had an enjoyable festive season and welcome you back to another year of privacy, no doubt continuing to fascinate and challenge as always. 

One of the big themes of this week’s digest is surveillance.   

In the Australian context, the government’s proposed Telecommunications (interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 continues to make headlines—most recently because of the insufficient time and poor consultation effort displayed in asking on Christmas eve that telcos provide their best implementation estimates by 9 January. The government has previously said it would make a substantial contribution to the costs of storing customer Internet and phone metadata for two years. Previous estimates have pegged the scheme somewhere in the vicinity of $100 million to $400 million, depending on what data is required to be retained. A federal parliamentary committee is due to report on the proposed legislation by 27 February, and amongst other things, will look at the cost impact of the proposed scheme.

Under the arrangement, some of the metadata telcos would be required to hold includes:

  • Subscriber identification information, such as name and address;
  • Information relating to subscriber contracts or arrangements relating to the service or to related accounts, services or devices;
  • Billing information and contact information;
  • Identifiers relating to the service;
  • Identifiers of a related account, service or device from which a communication has been sent, for example, the phone from which a call was made, the account from which an email was sent or an IP address;
  • Similar identifiers for the recipient of the communication;
  • Date, time and duration of a communication;
  • The type of communication, for example, Voice, SMS, email, chat, forum, social media or types of services used in a communication, such as ADSL, WiFi, VoIP, cable, GPRS, VoLTE, LTE as well as the features of a relevant service, examples being call waiting, call forwarding, bandwidth allowances, and
  • The location of the equipment used in connection with a communication.

Agencies will need a warrant to access the content of a communication but not the metadata.

The response from the public to the proposed laws is not surprising in light of global interest and debate over the data collection programs of the NSA as well as increased broader concern about the erosion of privacy in the wake of the high-profile leaks and hacks of the past year. Perhaps public distain is so high because of the double whammy the proposed scheme appears to strike: that our private information will be misused and that our private space will be intruded upon, both of the types of privacy invasion recognised by the ALRC

Surveillance continues to make headlines in the U.S. with The New York Times reporting that NSA phone data collection could go on even if Congress allows a law on which it is based to expire this year. And a survey conducted by the PEN American Center has found that a significant majority of writers are deeply concerned with government surveillance, with many reporting that they have avoided or considered avoiding controversial topics in their work or in personal communications as a result. Writers surveyed included fiction and non-fiction writers and related professionals including translators and editors in 50 countries.  

Finally, some practical advice supporting the well-known research of Alessandro Acquisti: Nico Sell, founder of secure messaging app Wickr has explained to The Observer that she wears dark glasses when she is likely to be photographed in public to decrease her digital footprint. She refers to the work of Acquisti, which demonstrates that pictures from high-security cameras can be matched with pictures on Facebook to steal an individual’s financial identity. Certainly explains all the sunglasses on Bondi Beach this summer.

Melanie Marks
Vice President


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