New laws will give Australian state and federal police the power to instruct ISPs to store the personal data of their customers for use in cyber-criminal investigations. The new system will not require ISPs to store data received from all of their users, as previously proposed changes had aimed for, but will instead only affect information gathered after a specific request has been made by a law enforcement agency and can then only be obtained from the provider once a warrant has been issued.
The information gathered will only affect individual users who are involved in cyber-criminal investigations, such as fraud, child porn and possibly copyright infringement.
It’s an obvious-sounding move, as ISPs tend to not store data for very long. Most internet providers move astronomical amounts of data every day and it’s simply not practical for them to hold on to user information for longer than is necessary for daily operations. This causes problems for law-enforcement agencies when they wish to acquire data about a suspect’s online activities due to a very small window in which any useful information can be taken from a suspect’s ISP before it is deleted.
One minor issue we take with the whole scenario is that tag of “cyber-crime”. Cyber-crime is a very loosely defined subject. We’re all for stopping child pornographers and online fraudsters, but when it comes to relatively minor issues like an individual user infringing on copyright then things get a bit murky. After all, it can be very easy to infringe on copyright these days and not even know it, so at what point should our at-home internet usage feel safe?
Another problem mentioned by the SMH this morning and originally raised by Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam is that these new laws could potentially assist in convicting Australians of overseas crimes, leaving Aussies at the mercy of foreign law, law that sometimes includes the death penalty.
This concern stems from the fact that the new cyber laws will allow Australia to become a member of the Council of Europe Convention of Cybercrime, thus focus on joining with other countries to stop international crime, rather than focusing purely on crimes committed within our own borders. Once again this makes perfect sense, although we can see the cause for Scott Ludlam’s distress.