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Myths and facts

There are common myths which are associated with the proposed data retention changes. Some of these are highlighted below:

  • Myth: The government will be able listen in to my calls and read my emails.
  • Fact: A warrant is required before law enforcement agencies can access the content of communications.
  • Myth: The government will be able to look at everything I am doing online.
  • Fact: Web browsing information and content will not be included in the data retention scheme.
  • Myth: The government is collecting and analysing information about thousands of ordinary Australians.
  • Fact: The government will not store the metadata that would be covered by this scheme. Law enforcement and security agencies cannot access metadata held by industry without cause—there are strict processes around how metadata can be accessed.
  • Myth: The government will be able to track where I go through my mobile phone.
  • Fact: Industry will only be asked to retain limited records, such as the location of a cell tower that a device was connected to at the start and end of a communication such as a phone call.
  • Myth: Many agencies other than law enforcement and intelligence agencies can access my metadata.
  • Fact: These reforms will tighten privacy protections and oversight by limiting the range of agencies that can access telecommunications data, and introducing oversight by the ombudsman.
  • Myth: Telecommunications companies will be able to use and sell my metadata.
  • Fact: Telecommunications companies are subject to very strict privacy laws regarding how they can use personal information and to whom it can be disclosed.
  • Myth: Data retention reform will cause telecommunications companies to increase their fees.
  • Fact: International experience indicates that the cost of mandatory data retention schemes is small.
  • Myth: Gathering metadata will not make our country safer.
  • Fact: Metadata is used in almost every criminal investigation to solve crimes such as murder, terrorism, sexual assault and kidnapping. The international experience is that data retention is particularly important for complex and long-running investigations.