Tech

Here’s why police were able to illegally access the call logs of a journalist

It was going to happen.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that allowing for a privacy invasion might just result in one’s privacy…being invaded.

On Friday, Australian Federal Police (AFP) commissioner Andrew Colvin admitted that an investigator had accessed the call logs of a journalist without getting a warrant first.

The country’s Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act requires authorities to seek a Journalist Information Warrant before accessing records. Colvin told reporters the breach was a result of "human error."

"It should not have occurred. The AFP takes it very seriously and we take full responsibility for a breach of the Act but I also want to say there was no ill will or malice or bad intent by the officers involved who breached the Act," he said.

The AFP self-reported the breach to the country’s Communications Ombudsman on Wednesday, and destroyed all records resulting from the breach. The content of the call was not accessed.

Even though the incident is a "serious matter," the journalist whose data was accessed has yet to be notified. Whether they’ll be told or not is pending an investigation, according to Colvin.

AFP disclosed the leak to the ombudsman TWO DAYS AGO. Only tells public on Friday afternoon….#auspol

— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) April 28, 2017

Last year, the AFP also admitted it had requested access to the metadata of The Guardian journalist Paul Farrell. According to the report, AFP officers attempted to try and track down Farrell’s confidential sources from a 2014 story on an Australian customs ship going further into Indonesian waters than the government had disclosed.

Despite concerns over hacks and the data being prone to abuse by law enforcement, the phone records and internet metadata of Australians have been recorded since October 2015.

Telecommunications companies are mandated to retain customer’s metadata for two years, in the interests of national security.

So you could say this was bound to happen, and there are likely plenty of regular non-journalist folk out there, who’ve had their metadata accessed by authorities.

It might be time to get that VPN, hey.

Everyone promised the metadata laws were about national security. Today we learn AFP is using them to find out who leaks to journos #auspol

— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) April 28, 2017

Meanwhile the AFP is accessing hundreds of non journalists’ #Metadata LEGALLY and we won’t be having press conferences about it.

— David Olsen (@DDsD) April 28, 2017

Paging all advocates of free speech and free press. This is your moment. #metadata

— Lisa Visentin (@LisaVisentin) April 28, 2017

I’m so glad you’re all so worried about journo’s privacy rights, not like anyone else’s privacy rights should matter yeah

— Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf) April 28, 2017

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