Australia’s Spy Chief Says Longer Data Retention Can Help Probe Foreign Influence

By AAP
February 28, 2020 Updated: February 28, 2020
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The head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Mike Burgess, says there’s a “strong argument” for extending data retention laws, saying it would help investigations into foreign intelligence and espionage.

Australia’s spy chief appeared before parliament’s intelligence and security committee in Canberra on Friday to review the mandatory data retention laws introduced in 2015.

Burgess said data retention laws had helped ASIO identify a visiting scientist who was involved in clandestine intelligence activity and had been accessing sensitive or classified documents for more than 10 years.

Liberal senator David Fawcett questioned if retaining data longer for two years would assist ASIO’s leads on serious cases.

“That’s correct, senator, and we have a strong argument for an extension of two years,” Burgess said.

Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally expressed concern over metadata being stored longer after it was revealed agencies including the RSPCA and a teaching institute had accessed information under the laws.

Burgess said too many people had access to the metadata without explaining why they needed it.

“I have a strong case why ASIO can access it perhaps everyone else who has accessed it should put their cases forward,” he said.

Hosting the data overseas was raised as a concern, in light of an increasing trend from other countries towards storing data locally.

Burgess said moving data offshore didn’t necessarily make it less secure, however, his preference would be to store all Australians’ data here so it could be protected under Australian law.

By Greta Stonehouse