Facts of the case
Recently Apple submitted an appeal to the California Supreme Court challenging an order from the FBI. The law enforcement agency wants Apple to develop a new operating system so that the FBI can break into the iPhone of one of the San Bernadino shooters.
What the Apple case could mean for users of digital devices
Apple is opposing the order because it is worried that the FBI getting into an iPhone may set a dangerous precedent. It may in effect mean that the FBI would have an encryption tool that could override present operating systems. This would allow the FBI to break into iPhones and other ‘i devices’.
Information protection in Australia – in general
In Australia, a number of pieces of legislation protect the security of your personal information. The main source of law in this area is the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). It regulates how your personal information is collected, used, stored and disclosed. Personal information includes your name, address, telephone number, tax file number and bank account details, amongst other things.
One of the most important principles of the Privacy Act is that an organisation within the scope of the legislation must not collect information (other than sensitive information) unless it is reasonably necessary for one or more of the entity’s functions or activities.
However, it is up to each of us to protect our personal information. It is advisable that you ask any entity which may be collecting your personal information why they are collecting your data and how they will be using it. For example, will your information be sent overseas or given to a 3rd party? If you don’t think the response is appropriate, you can contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner for advice or to lodge a privacy complaint.
Government access to digital information in Australia
In March 2015, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015 came into existence. Telecommunications companies are obliged to retain and secure a set of metadata records for 2 years. According to the Australian Attorney – General’s Department, this is to provide our law enforcement and security agencies the information they need to keep our community safe.
Metadata is limited to the information about a communication and not the specific content of the communication. Also, the Act significantly limits those agencies that are permitted to access the metadata.
However, there has been significant criticism of the new law which will allow government agencies to see the patterns of your digital communications – for example your browsing history and who you communicate with.
Whether it be in the USA or Australia, there remains intense debate about who can collect your digital information and for what purpose. This means that more than ever before it is important to put in place safeguards to protect your digital information. Such safeguards include strong passwords, securing your mobile and using security software.
About the author:
Shzan Plandowski is a law graduate working in the area of workplace law at Lynn & Brown Lawyers. Shzan has experience in corporate and property law.