blog Some five months ago, Pirate Party Australia founder Rodney Serkowski made what many would consider to be a fairly standard Freedom of Information request with the Australian Federal Police. Given the ongoing dialogue between the police, politicians and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook with respect to using data from social media sites for use in investigations, Serkowski thought it might not be too much of a bit deal to ask the AFP just how it was using that data. He sought, under Freedom of Information laws (you can read the full details on his blog here):
(a) Documents, reports, memoranda or policy statements not already made publicly available, regarding the use of social media or social networking sites in formal police inquiries, surveillance and investigation.
(b) Documents not already made publicly available detailing any formal or informal co-operative arrangements between law enforcement agencies and any such social networking sites, detailing prices and/or procedures for such agencies seeking access to information or details regarding subscribers to those services.
However, the AFP’s FoI team saw fit to reject Serkowski’s request. The whole request. Reject it wholesale. Even though there were some 23 documents in total found within the AFP’s systems which related to the matter, the AFP has chosen to release none of those documents. Serkowski’s reaction:
“It is without a doubt that there is a public interest and democratic imperative that such information be released. Internet users have a right to understand and be made aware of what information is being collected, under what circumstances and under what arrangements that information is being collected or relayed, and who has access to that information.”
“There are extremely novel ways in which policing organisations are assessing the large amounts of data they are retrieving from social media organisations, for instance through the mapping of associations which have huge implications for the privacy of citizens and users, and we should be able to understand how enforcement organisations are using that data, and for how long it is stored.”
However, according to the AFP, at least, Australians do not have that right. Wow. It seems like the privacy violations and access to data by law enforcement agencies just keeps on coming. And accountability and transparency, in this environment, are hard things to come by.