Australia's metadata retention scheme begins today - Government will not pursue regulations to expand use of metadata in civil cases - 13 April 2017

Australia’s metadata retention scheme became law in October 2015, but many Internet providers and telecommunications carriers had applied for a grace period giving them extra time to implement systems and processes for complying with the scheme. The implementation grace period ends today, 13 April 2017.

The metadata scheme requires Internet service providers and telecoms companies to retain customers' non-content metadata, including phone, email and Internet records, for 2 years (or longer for “subscriber information”) and to make it available to law enforcement and various government agencies for specific purposes.

In late 2016, the Commonwealth Government announced a review into whether to expand the purposes for which the retained metadata can be used, including in civil cases such as matrimonial disputes.

Today, the Attorney-General’s Department tabled its report to Parliament which concluded there is insufficient evidence to support new regulations for allowing civil litigants to access the scheme metadata. The report notes civil litigants are (with a court order) still able to access data which is not retained solely for purposes of complying with the scheme. The report is available here.

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