posted at 22:50
Author: Jenni Ryall
Australian politicians are just as confused by metadata as you are
They've been changing their minds about data and what it actually means for years. On Thursday, the Australia Government introduced a data retention bill to Parliament. The main focus of the proposed legislation is to ensure Internet service providers and telecommunication companies retain customer's metadata for a two-year period, so the government can fight crime. Australians would be forgiven for being a little uneasy with the undefined elements of the bill, such as what the government's exact definition of metadata is and what happens to the data after two years. The explanatory memorandum of the bill did clarify some aspects of metadata and retention Thursday, stating: "Internet browsing data should be explicitly excluded" and the retention will also "Exclude content". Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was absolutely against the data retention proposal by the Labor Government in 2012, which bore similarities to his party's current version. The previous government's plan was to collect customer data including the time and date of mobile phone calls, email details and the internet addresses that could identify individuals. While the purported intent is that only metadata - data about data - will be available to law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies, there is no explanation of how metadata will be distinguished from data, why both would not be readily available once a message has been handed over and decrypted, and indeed how readily in an IP world it is possible to keep a record of the time, date, size, sender, receiver and possibly subject of an email without also retaining the contents.

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