Privacy advocates rip into ISP cybercrime code

A draft cybercrime code of practice that would require member ISPs to log subscriber usage for up to 12 months is contrary to privacy principles, claims Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA).

The non-profit, national organisation for online civil liberties has submitted a damning review of the code to the Internet Industry Association’s (IIA) public consultation phase.

Released by the IIA in July, the code aims to assist law enforcement investigations of cybercrime by requiring that the Association’s member ISPs hold users’ personal data -- such as proxy logs and e-mail details -- for six or 12 months.

Most ISPs don’t hold this data for more than 24 hours, said EFA executive director Irene Graham.

She said if the code was finalised, consumers would be better off not using an ISP that complies with the code.

“This code will just amount to a pool of information for LEA (law enforcement agency) fishing trips," she said.

“I intend to contact the Privacy Commissioner about this, because while he was consulted, I don’t believe he would have reviewed this version [of the code].”

EFA’s submission was written by its eight member board, which has legal expertise and Internet industry experience, said Graham.

The conclusion of the submission reads, in part: “The data collection and retention provisions of the Code seek to establish a de facto extension of the telecommunications interception regime, enabling access to vastly more communications and personal information than results from telephone call intercepts under warrant, without any provisions ensuring accountability, transparency and judicial and Parliamentary oversight.”

Referring to her participation in the Australian Crime Commission’s recent parliamentary inquiry into cybercrime, Graham said the IIA had not made clear the need for the code.

“Parliament and the government have not determined a serious need for this [data logging] in two years, despite law enforcement agencies attempts.

“The inquiry that I attended recently found the problem areas of cybercrime to be cafes, web-based e-mail accounts that can’t be tracked, chatrooms… web proxy logs won’t deal with these things.

“Until LEAs can enunciate what the problem is and the specific effects that can result, there should be no data retention [by ISPs],” she said.

Although the IIA is a national association with members including Telstra, Optus and OzEmail, the cybercrime code will not govern the data logging of all ISPs in Australia.

The South Australian and Western Australian Internet Associations are not party to the IIA, and have a significant member base. Kim Heitman, president of WAIA, said the association had more active ISP members than the IIA, with 200 members.

“WAIA will be developing its own code in this regard,” he said. “The IIA have shown themselves to be more regulators than an association, and their interests don’t extend to this side of the Blue Mountains.”

The code was “a good starting point”, according to South Australian Internet Association vice-president Phil Kalogeras, but he said he would not endorse it.

Graham said she also expected the non-government Australian Privacy Foundation to lodge a “similar”, critical submission.

PC World contacted the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner and the Internet Industry Association but did not receive comment on the matter in time for publication.

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