New Data retention laws

From 2017 phone and internet records must be stored for two years by Australian phone and Internet providers under new national security laws passed in March 2015.

These new laws allow security and policing agencies to access the ‘metadata’ of records held by phone and internet companies. The laws stem from a government initiative to prevent terrorism attacks and serious crime.

What is metadata?

There has been confusion and inconsistency around the definition of what metadata is. In a basic sense it is the information that identifies you when you make a phone call or interact on the Internet.

What is not included in Metadata?

  • Web browsing history.
  • The body or text of SMS messages.
  • The body and subject lines of emails.
  • Files attached to emails including photos or documents.
  • The audio of phone conversations.
  • The audio recordings of online or social media chats.
  • Continuous location tracking via mobile devices.

What will be kept for a minimum of two years?

Phone calls

  • Incoming caller identification.
  • Outgoing caller identification.
  • The time, date and duration of the phone call.
  • The location of the device at the beginning and the end of the phone call.
  • The unique identifier number assigned to a particular mobile phone device.
  • The status of a mobile device, for example, if it is lost, stolen or on roaming.
  • Information about what features were used on any particular call such as call waiting or call forwarding.

Internet (if these services are provided by an Australian operator)

  • Email address.
  • The time, date, size and recipients of emails.
  • The file type and size of any attachments sent or received with emails.
  • Online chat time, date and the identity of those on the chat.
  • Details about internet usage including how much bandwidth the internet service provides
  • How many uploads/downloads made and the size of each one.
  • Details about what technology enabled each communication i.e. ADSL, Wi-Fi, cable internet.
  • Account details held by the ISP or telco provider; including when the account was activated or suspended.