According to a poll conducted by Essential Research for Digital Rights Watch (DRW), the cohorts of the population that are least concerned about Australia’s metadata and encryption laws are those aged over 55, as well as those who vote for the Coalition.
In a series of leading questions, Essential asked around 1,000 people their stance on the laws and the recent Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on the press, giving three options of: “This is very concerning”, “This does not concern me at all”, and “This is slightly concerning” as the middle option.
Combining the results of the two options with “concerning” in them has allowed DRW to claim that 76% of Australians are concerned about data retention, 71% are concerned about the encryption laws, and 74% are concerned about the AFP raids.
The responses generally broke down into roughly 35/40/25 percentage divisions, with “slightly concerning” carrying most of the responses.
The results from the online survey conducted by Essential showed the group least worried by any of the questions was retirees. On the encryption laws, 41% were not concerned compared to 25% for workers; for metadata retention, 34% were unconcerned against 19% for workers; and 34% of retirees were unconcerned about the AFP raids compared to 21% for those in paid employment. Those not in paid employment sat between the two percentages.
Similarly, across the questions, Coalition party voters were least concerned. On the encryption laws, LNP voters were nearly twice as unconcerned as Greens voters, 39% versus 21%, with Labor voters only 2 percentage points higher than the Greens. With metadata, those supporting the government were twice as unconcerned as Greens and Labor voters, with 32% versus 16% and 18% respectively.
Greens voters were more concerned by the metadata and encryption laws — which should be no surprise as Labor and the Coalition voted for both sets of legislation — while Labor voters were most concerned about the AFP raids. Concerns amongst LNP voters were roughly half the amount shown by the other two cohorts.
“We know that people are concerned about the raft of powers that have been given to law enforcement over the past few years. There is a glaring lack of transparency and oversight over how these powers are used,” chair of Digital Rights Watch Tim Singleton Norton said.
“The passage of encryption-breaking powers last year was a complete debacle, and caused a great amount of distrust in the political system – which this polling is showing loud and clear. The majority of Australians are not at all comfortable with the scope and implementation of these powers, and they have every right to feel this way.”
Speaking on Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has defended the checks and protections within Australia’s data retention regime, following the tabling the day before of a Commonwealth Ombudsman’s report that was released in February and pointed out gaping holes in the handling of metadata, authorisation processes, and record keeping.
“There are mechanisms in place, safe checks, and they should be adhered to, and if not, there are consequences for that,” he said.
“Take the protections very seriously. But in the end, the vast majority of cases, 99% of the use of these laws will be appropriate, and they’ll be used in a way that that will result in protecting Australians — and that’s the reality.”
On Tuesday, the annual report for the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act showed the metadata system has cost telcos upwards of AU$210 million so far, with only AU$40 million recouped from enforcement agencies.
Minister for Home Affairs also takes opportunity to try to scare the population.
Law enforcement agencies have stumped up only AU$39 million to poke around in Australia’s metadata.
Agencies that are allowed to view metadata should be spelled out in legislation, Law Council of Australia states.
Laws show the different path Australia is taking to privacy, the Law Council of Australia has said.