[LINK] Aust. Law Enforcement doesn't 'do' data

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Thu Jan 1 09:07:16 AEDT 2015

[For outfits that expect telecoms to collect all this stuff on us, they can't seem to get their OWN acts in place for doing the same about their own activities. If they are ignorant [about what it takes, then how can they possibly understand the requests they are making of others? Same with the AGs. And yet they expect instant answers from telcos re [costs. Incredible.]

Metadata: most Australian police forces can't say how many times it has been used to prevent crime
Paul Farrell
Monday 29 December 2014 17.52 AEST 

Most of Australia’s law enforcement agencies are unable to say how many times phone and web data has been used to prevent serious crimes or terrorist attacks, or how many convictions resulted from requests.

A joint parliamentary committee is examining the federal government’s bill to retain Australians’ phone and web data – commonly known as metadata – for two years. Many of Australia’s law enforcement agencies have argued strongly in favour of the scheme.

Under the plan, access to metadata would be warrantless and without prior oversight from independent agencies or judges.

But in response to questions from the parliamentary committee, few could provide accurate information about how they had used metadata in criminal investigations.

The agencies were asked in how many cases over the past five years metadata requests had been used to prevent serious crimes, how many times they were used to prevent a terrorist attack and how many convictions had occurred as a result of telecommunications data requests.

Western Australian, Northern Territory and Victorian police could not provide figures for these questions. The Australian federal police said intercepted material had been used in 203 convictions but could not answer the other questions and could not calculate some types of historical data requests.

“It is not possible to approximate with any degree of certainty how many criminal actions, including terrorist acts, have been averted as a direct result of the use of telecommunications data,” the AFP’s submission said.

“Historical communications data is a fundamental building block of most investigations. However, it is not possible to precisely report on how many cases assisted in securing a criminal conviction.”

But the agency did provide specific examples of how metadata was used to assist the agency in preventing an attack on Holsworthy barracks in 2009 and two other planned attacks.

South Australia police said there had been 146 convictions from information of intercepted service but said it did not collect information on how many requests had assisted in the prevention of a serious crime or terrorist attack.

Another key question for the committee was the age of the requested data. The scheme is asking for Australians’ data to be retained for two years but it is not clear how many criminal investigations require data this old.

The AFP and Victorian, NT and WA police were unable to answer the question, with the federal police saying: “AFP systems are not configured to capture this information, and extraction of this information from historical records would require significant resources to manually review.”

In its response Victoria police wrote: “This information is not readily available nor is it able to be sourced in the response time available.”

WA police said its systems “do not permit interrogation to identify the age of the data requested” and each request would have to be manually checked.

The NT force simply said it was “unable to supply the information in the timeframe provided”. Only the South Australian force was able to supply any figures on this information. It recorded in the 2012-13 year that 61% of requests had been more than 12 months old, while 38% were less than three months old.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and Australian Crime Commission lodged submissions to the inquiry but the contents have been withheld from the public.

Further hearings are scheduled in January and the committee is due to report by 27 February.

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