News National Labor MP warns of ‘digital fingerprint’

Labor MP warns of ‘digital fingerprint’

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A Labor frontbencher has warned about the unpopularity of delving into people’s phone and internet records, as his party prepares to vote for the Government’s contentious metadata laws.

Parliament has begun debating the laws which would force telecommunications providers to store records of phone calls and internet use for two years.

The Labor caucus voted to support the laws on Tuesday after the Government agreed to an amendment extending “limited” protection to journalists.

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However, a number of Opposition MPs have expressed reservations about the overall regime.

Labor parliamentary secretary Ed Husic has told Parliament he is concerned that a “digital fingerprint” will be taken of every Australian.

“Who you spoke to, when you spoke to them, how long you spoke to them for, how often you speak to them,” he said.

“It will create a digital fingerprint of every single person in the nation.”

metadata laws are being discussed in parliament
West Australian Labor MP Melissa Parke says she is worried the information will be misused. Photo: Getty

And he has warned that it is a move against the “general groundswell of opinion” to instead endeavour to protect privacy.

“The next generation of voters, the next generation of Australians will value more and more their privacy and that’s why there’s such concern on this,” he said.

It echoed concerns from West Australian Labor MP Melissa Parke who said she is worried the information will be misused.

“The sweeping scope of the data retention scheme, together with the permissive nature of the access regime, present very real risks to the rights and freedoms Australians are entitled to expect,” she said.

Overnight, another frontbencher Alannah McTiernan said the whole debate had been rushed.

“We should have had a sophisticated discussion in the community about the legitimate needs for law enforcement and national security agencies and the countervailing requirements for privacy protection before this bill was ever initiated,” she said in a statement.

Labor has steadfastly supported a raft of national security legislation that has passed parliament in the last few months, including to better tackle the problem of so-called “foreign fighters”.

The Government wants this legislation passed by the end of next week, when parliament will rise for a six week break.

Abbott defends ‘limited exemption’ for journalists

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended the new “limited exemption” for journalists by harking back to his days as a writer for The Bulletin in the 1980s.

“When I was a journalist there were no metadata protections for journalists and if any agency, including the RSPCA or the local council had wanted my metadata they could’ve just gone and got it on authorisation,” he said.

“So I was perfectly comfortable as a journalist.”

He said the new measure – which will force agencies to get a warrant to access journalists’ metadata – was an “unprecedented additional level of protection”.

The Australian Federal Police has responded to concerns from the journalists’ union, saying “requests for accessing a journalist’s metadata are rare”.


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