The Attorney-General’s department is in discussions with the telecommunications industry over a plan to record and store internet users’ private web browsing histories so they can be searched by police and other security agencies.

The Rudd Government plans to base its scheme on one operating in the European Union which has been decried by civil liberties groups there.

Under the European Directive on Data Retention, communications providers retain data for up to two years to trace and identify the source of a communication, the destination of a communication, the date, time and duration of a communication, the type of communication, the communication device, and the location of mobile communication equipment.

Under the European Directive it is not necessary for a judicial warrant to be sought before data is made available to investigators.

An Attorney-General’s department spokesman confirmed the Government is considering a similar scheme.
“The Attorney-General’s department has been examining the European Directive on Data Retention to consider whether such a regime is appropriate within Australia’s law enforcement and security context,” the spokemsan said.

“The department is consulting broadly with the telecommunications industry.”

Southern Star asked the department under what criteria information gathered under its scheme would be provided to Australian authorities, and would such information be shared with foreign intelligence agencies.

However, the spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment on such matters while consultations were continuing.

Vice-chairman of internet users’ rights group Electronic Frontiers Australia, Geordie Guy, said he considered the idea “a travesty”.

“It’s not something that the Australian public is going to accept,” he said.

“There is no evidence to suggest that it’s necessary for successful law enforcement. It will cost an utter fortune, put increased pressure on internet service providers to spend more money, and therefore pass on more costs to their consumers.

“From a civil liberties perspective it’s an utter disaster. This presumes everybody is guilty of something to begin with. Every internet user will be treated as a suspect from the get-go by storing this information.

“We’re told constantly we should be very wary of our information privacy online, yet the Government is flying in the face of that by seeking to record everybody’s information.

“It’s particularly concerning to us given that the minister for broadband, communications and digital economies, Senator Stephen Conroy has ranted and raved about the privacy breaches that he says Google is responsible for — then the Attorney-General’s department turns around to propose doing the exact same thing to everyone. It’s startling.”

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