The Federal Government's contentious plan to keep Internet users' Web browser history should undergo a stringent privacy impact analysis, a process which could delay the policy by several years if it becomes legislation, according to Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim.
The Attorney-General’s department revealed in June it was in talks with ISPs to bring on a data retention scheme to log every website a user visits. The data will be kept for up to 10 years for law enforcement purposes.
The Federal Government has been extremely secretive on this proposed legislation. Its extensive censorship of the consultation paper on the topic has generated accusations the Government was purposefully stifling debate on the Web browser history retention plan.
During a Senate Committee inquiry on the proposal, Pilgrim brought up several troubling problems pertaining to data retention, including how long data would be held and accountability for data security.
“If you have [retained data] sitting around for a long time, there is often a great risk something could happen to it,” he said. “It could be mishandled or it could be used for inappropriate purposes.”
Pilgrim criticised the idea of keeping data on the basis it may be useful in the future.
“Generally, my office would not accept the collection of personal information on the chance it may be just useful at some later date,” he said.
Pilgrim suggested changes to the retention of Web browsing information should undergo a thorough privacy impact assessment.
“It would provide an avenue for ensuring privacy is appropriately protected,” he said.”
Should a review process occur for the proposed data retention policy, Pilgrim said this may take around two to five years if the plan becomes legislation.