The ACT’s Chief Police Officer (CPO) Ray Johnson has described more than 100 illegal accesses of metadata as an “administrative oversight”.
A Commonwealth Ombudsman report revealed ACT Policing accessed metadata 116 times without proper authorisation in 2015.
It also found police in Western Australian obtained the metadata of at least one journalist without obtaining a valid warrant.
Assistant Commissioner Johnson said changes made to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act in 2015 meant the AFP member who gave the authorisations had not actually been approved to do so.
“The member who was doing the authorisations continued doing so in good faith, on the basis of operational need … until the problem was discovered and it was reported to the ombudsman,” he said.
The 2015 legislative changes forced telecommunication companies to hold internet and phone records for up to two years so the information could be accessed as part of criminal investigations.
Domestic intelligence and police agencies could then be granted access to the metadata and could also apply for a warrant to access journalist’s information.
Assistant Commissioner Johnson assured no journalist’s data was accessed by ACT police.
He said the error was reported as soon as it was discovered and an authorised officer had since been appointed.
“I’m confident that the processes are now in place to make sure that under that legislation we comply,” he said.
“We all understand that these are powers given to police by the community, we’re entrusted with them and we desperately don’t want to make mistakes with it.”
The Ombudsman report, for the period July 2016 to June 2017, was tabled in Federal Parliament on Monday.