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Data retention case studies

The importance of data retention in law enforcement and security investigations is highlighted in the case studies below:

Case study one: Data in Operation Rescue

During a EUROPOL child exploitation investigation (Operation Rescue), investigators relied heavily on access to data as perpetrators primarily shared information online, meaning that limited physical evidence was available.

371 suspects were believed to be in the United Kingdom (UK). Using retained data (in conjunction with other investigative techniques), UK authorities were able to positively identify 240 suspects, leading to 121 arrests and convictions. In contrast, of the 377 suspects believed to be in Germany, which did not have a data retention regime in force at the time of the investigation, German authorities were only able to identify seven suspects, and were unable to obtain sufficient evidence to arrest or convict any suspects.

Case study two: Data foils mass casualty terrorist attack in Australia

In 2005, a combined Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and law enforcement operation (Operation Pendennis) prevented a mass casualty terrorist attack in Australia, including plans to target the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This resulted in the arrest and conviction of 13 men on terrorism charges, with sentences of up to 28 years in jail.

Data was critical to the successful outcome of the investigation and subsequent trial. Data was used to identify a covert phone network that was used in an attempt to hide illicit activities from ASIO and law enforcement agencies.

Without access to this data, ASIO would not have been equipped to provide advice to manage the risk and work with law enforcement partners to prevent a mass casualty terrorist attack in Australia. In addition, ASIO and law enforcement agencies would likely not have understood the network of people involved. To obtain the same information via other means (subject to this information being available through other means) would have required much higher levels of intrusion. The analysis of data is a key component in the overwhelming majority of priority security investigations and consistently proves to be an invaluable intelligence capability, including through eliminating individuals from security concern.