The Government Wants Companies To Retain Your Social Media Metadata Because Terrorists Are Big Facebook Fans

Getty/ Mary Turner

The Australian government’s new metadata retention plans involve capturing information from online communications websites, including Facebook and Twitter.

An expanded plan of the federal government’s metadata scheme would see companies other than major telecommunications providers obligated to retain metadata that could be accessed by security and intelligence officials.

This amendment to the original plan, issued by the Attorney-General’s Department, was revealed in a consultation paper obtained by The Australian.

“Data-retention obligations should not be limited to licensed carriers but should also extend to any entity that provides communications services to the Australian public,” the paper says.

The initial metadata retention proposal involved Australia’s largest telcos collecting and holding phone and internet data for up to two years, giving law enforcement agencies unprecedented access to consumer information without the need for a warrant.

Metadata from social media sites is increasingly appealing to security agencies because terrorist organisations, such as Islamic State, are using social media to recruit jihadists and spread propaganda.

The government used metadata information to link convicted terrorist Nayef El Sayed to the planned 2009 suicide attack on Australian military personnel at Holsworthy Army Base in Sydney.

The paper, issued to ­companies including Telstra, Optus and iiNet two days ago, is likely to cause contention among communication companies, privacy advocates and online activists.

Metadata derived from social media websites may assist government agencies to monitor potential terrorist activity and propaganda, such as that by Islamic State in recent months, but also potentially encroach upon the privacy of journalists, whistleblowers and the public.

If you want to watch the Attorney-General attempt to explain Australia’s data retention plans, you can do that here, however, this is the best explanation of metadata we’ve seen yet.

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