Abbott unapologetic on data collection
Tony Abbott responds to allegations that data on Australian citizens is being shared with the country's international intelligence partners.PT3M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ylb8 620 349 December 2, 2013
Information about ordinary Australian citizens has been offered to Australia's global spying partners, according to the latest reports of leaked intelligence from US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In revelations that will add pressure to the Abbott government, which is still reeling from the Indonesian spying leak, The Guardian is reporting that Australia's surveillance agency has indicated it would share “bulk” data with its “5-eyes” partners – an intelligence-sharing network comprising the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Photo: Reuters
“The document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share 'medical, legal or religious information',” the report states.
The latest spying revelations are based on a secret 2008 document obtained by Mr Snowden, a former contractor who had access to high-level US government intelligence.
Mr Snowden's document reveals notes of what was discussed at a “5-eyes” conference hosted by Britain's GCHQ in Cheltenham on April 22-23, 2008.
According to the report, Australia's intelligence agency, then known as the Defence Signals Directorate, told its global intelligence partners it could share “bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national”.
“Unintentional collection is not viewed as a significant issues,” notes from the conference say.
Metadata is the basic information people generate when using technology, but not the content. Metadata stored about a phone call could include the parties to the call, location, duration and time of the call, but not what was said.
Metadata stored about an internet activity could include URLs visited and the time at which they were visited, while email metadata might include addresses and the subject.
The partners also agreed that medical, legal or religious would not be automatically excluded from the sharing arrangement, but would instead be considered by the owning agency ‘‘on a case-by-case basis’’.
The Australian intelligence agency was reportedly willing to reveal more about its country's citizens, with fewer privacy restraints, than other countries.
According to The Guardian’s report, the documents reveal that Canada imposed more rigorous privacy restrictions than Australia, agreeing to share information on the condition that information about its citizens first be redacted.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was confident Australian intelligence agencies were acting in accordance with the law and there were adequate safeguards in place.
‘‘If there’s any evidence that we have acted inappropriately, that we have done something illegally, produce the evidence and the matter will be dealt with,’’ the Prime Minister told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
‘‘But there’s nothing that’s in the public arena, there’s nothing that I am privately aware of, to suggest that any Australian law has been broken.’’
He said metadata was ‘‘essentially the billing data’’.
‘‘There’s a big difference between billing data and the actual content of calls,’’ he said. ‘‘You can only get access to the content of communications by warrant, under our system.’’