The Australian Greens has successfully applied for the Senate to hold an inquiry into online privacy in Australia, with one topic to be discussed being a Federal Government proposal which could see records kept of Australians’ web browsing history, telephone calls and emails.
In a statement issued yesterday Greens Communications Spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, said events in near history had proven that Australians faced a multitude of challenges in protecting their privacy online.
Several weeks ago the Attorney-General’s Department confirmed it had been examining the European Directive on Data Retention to consider whether it would be beneficial for Australia to adopt a similar regime. The directive requires telcos to record data such as the source, destination and timing of all emails and telephone calls – even including internet telephony.
ZDNet.com.au has also reported claims by sources that the policy could extend as far as tracking the web browsing history of all Australians — a claim the office of Attorney-General Robert McClelland has denied.
In addition, various other online privacy issues have caused consternation in Australia over the past few months — especially related to the collection of Wi-Fi data by Google’s Street View vehicles on their travels around Australia, and issues with social networking sites such as Facebook.
Ludlam said it was time the Parliament took “a proper look” at the degree to which “the privacy of Australians online is being eroded by the Government and corporations alike”.
The terms of reference of the inquiry will see it look into the adequacy of protections for the privacy of Australians online, with reference to privacy protections and data collection on social networking sites, as well as the data collection activities of private companies and government agencies.
“Recent events have proven that Australians face a multitude of challenges in protecting their privacy online: whether it be social networking sites and search engines harvesting personal data to sell to advertisers, or Government agencies snooping for their own obscure purposes,” said Ludlam.