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Data retention proposal 'raises more questions than it answers,' says IIA executive

The Internet Industry Association has asked for more information on the government's proposal to require retention of Internet user data for two years, IIA CEO Peter Lee said in an interview with Computerworld Australia. Lee, who became the IIA's CEO in July, said other current areas of focus include updating the iCode and reforming copyright laws.

Lee described his first two months at IIA as "extremely busy" but "very rewarding." Since joining, Lee has been reviewing the IIA's strategy and setting priorities for the next 12 months. That has included increased engagement with smaller IIA members and communication with the government, he said.

The IIA has just entered a submission on data retention to the parliamentary inquiry into reforms in national security legislation, Lee said. IIA's comments are similar to those of the Communications Alliance and other ISP groups, he said.

The government's data retention proposal "raises more questions than it answers," Lee said. It's still unclear which data is to be collected and retained for two years, he said. ISPs also need to know how to collect the data, whether to use encryption and where to store the information, he said.

Until there are answers, "it's difficult to put a cost to the data that's required to be stored." ISPs don't want to be put in a position where they have to start collecting data they are not gathering already, he added.

"I don't think anyone disagrees with the government or with the attorney general on the fact that we do need to make sure that in an ever-increasing digital world that our law enforcement agencies have the right powers ... to identify criminal activity and act upon it," he said. "But at the same time we do need to balance that with the rights and privacy of consumers."

An IIA working group is reviewing an update to iCode, the industry's voluntary cybersecurity best practices, Lee said. "We are redrafting the code as we speak," and plan to release proposed changes for comment by the end of this month, he said. When that happens, IIA plans to consult with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, he said.

IIA wants to make sure the voluntary industry code remains relevant, Lee said. For example, "the code previously was very computer-centric," but now must be updated to reflect the prevalence of mobile, he said.

Copyright reform isn't going away as an issue, said Lee. Earlier today, the Australian High Court turned down an Optus application to appeal a judgement against its TV Now service. IIA plans to submit comments this November to the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry on copyright laws, he said. The commission's deadline to act on the subject is November 2013.

IIA has been "doing a lot of work with some of our members" on content filtering and hopes to increase awareness of its voluntary family friendly filter, Lee said. "We're hoping to achieve an outcome where the worst of the worst sites" are blocked or filtered without a government mandate, he said.

IIA sees the NBN as an enabler, Lee said. "From our perspective, it's all about having a ubiquitous network that provides pricing that is affordable for consumers." Increasing broadband adoption increases the digital economy, he said.

"We've always had a fixed-line monopoly network in Telstra," Lee said. However, "competition now at the retail level means that ISPs and traditional providers need to start looking at other ways of competing with over-the-top providers like Apple and Google because they're the ones whose applications are going to become more of a focus."

Government should promote competition in the mobile industry, Lee said. "We don't want to move to a monopoly mobile provider or even a duopoly sector." Vodafone has lately gotten a bad rap for network problems but the carrier is spending significantly on its network and that investment should not go to waste, he said.

IIA has some overlapping members with the Comms Alliance, but Lee said IIA is squarely focused on the Internet as opposed to telco and network infrastructure issues. "It's a very dynamic industry and evolving industry and ... if you blink, you miss something."

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia


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