Documents relating to CASA's request for ongoing access to Telecommunications Data

Richard Smith made this Freedom of Information request to Civil Aviation Safety Authority

The request was partially successful.

From: Richard Smith

Delivered

Dear Civil Aviation Safety Authority,

In 2015 the Commonwealth Attorney-General, under Freedom of Information, released a list of Government Agencies, Departments and Authorities that had applied for ongoing access to Telecommunication Data (phonecalls and internet browsing metadata) of Australians.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority was present in the two lists released under the FOI release, having applied for access to both historical Telecommunications Data and ongoing Telecommunications Data of Australians.

I therefore request the following Government Information:

a) Documents relating to the CASA's consideration and decision to apply for ongoing access to Telecommunications Data as per the TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INTERCEPTION AND ACCESS) ACT 1979;

b) The date of each Application made by CASA for access to Telecommunications Data under the TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INTERCEPTION AND ACCESS) ACT 1979;

c) Documents relating to how CASA deals with the privacy of data obtained through access to ongoing access to Telecommunications Data as per TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INTERCEPTION AND ACCESS) ACT 1979, including how the data received is obtained, assessed, stored and ultimately destroyed;

d) The number of documents containing data obtained by CASA through its ongoing access to Telecommunication Data; and

e) The number of documents containing data obtained by CASA through its ongoing access to Telecommunication Data that CASA has determined are not likely to be required for a permitted purpose and therefore has destroyed, for the period of time from since the commencement of ongoing access to the data was granted until 17th March 2017.

To assist you with your processing of your response, I am interested primarily in the following points, which I consider to be of significant public interest:

1) why the CASA thinks that it requires ongoing access to the Telecommunications Data of Australians, considering there appears to be very few legitimate reasons for ongoing access to phonecalls and internet browsing details of Australians in relation to CASA's role in regulating aviation safety; and

2) the scale of Telecommunications Data of Australians being obtained, handled, stored and ultimately destroyed by CASA.

If this can be answered as informal request, please do so.

Otherwise, please proceed with this as a formal request under the Freedom of Information principles & framework, i.e. the Freedom of Information Act 1982 & other associated guidelines and regulations.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Smith

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From: Anastasi, Adam
Civil Aviation Safety Authority

UNCLASSIFIED
Richard

Your email appears to assume the CASA has ongoing access to telecommunications data. I advise that CASA is no longer an enforcement agency under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, by virtue of amendments to that Act by the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015 (the Data Retention Act). Therefore, since 2015, CASA has not accessed telecommunications data for the purposes of its investigation because it has been unable to.

In light of that, please advise if you maintain your request for access.

Adam Anastasi Manager
Legal Advisory, Drafting and Procurement Section Legal Affairs, Regulatory Policy and International Strategy Branch Civil Aviation Safety Authority

p: 02 6217 1040
GPO Box 2005 CANBERRA ACT 2606
www.casa.gov.au
   

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From: Richard Smith

Delivered

Dear Adam,

Thank you for your replying to my request for Government Information of 19 March 2017.

May I take it that your response is a definitive official confirmation that since the commencement of the Data Retention Act, CASA has not reapplied for access to, nor received access to, Telecommunications Data of Australians?

If I assume the answer to my question above is in the affirmative, I consider the impact on my request for Government Information to be that it now covers a finite period of time where CASA accessed Telecommunications Data of Australians.

The narrowing down of the timeframe to a finite period does not materially invalidate nor change my requests for information, and I will address each one (a through e) in turn below.

My request part "a)"

"a) Documents relating to the CASA's consideration and decision to apply for ongoing access to Telecommunications Data as per the TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INTERCEPTION AND ACCESS) ACT 1979;"

goes to CASA's decision making in considering the benefits of accessing Telecommunications Data of Australians and when the decision was ultimately made to apply for access to Telecommunications Data. I am sure that a Commonwealth agency wouldn't commence the application process under a legislative regime without consulting the Minister and without having the decision minuted in an executive meeting. This request for Government Information still stands.

My request part "b)"

"b) The date of each Application made by CASA for access to Telecommunications Data under the TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INTERCEPTION AND ACCESS) ACT 1979;"

is not limited to the situation at the present time. Since CASA had access to Telecommunications Data prior to the commencement of the Data Retention Act, this request needs no further elaboration. This request for Government Information still stands.

My request part "c)"

"c) Documents relating to how CASA deals with the privacy of data obtained through access to ongoing access to Telecommunications Data as per TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INTERCEPTION AND ACCESS) ACT 1979, including how the data received is obtained, assessed, stored and ultimately destroyed;"

goes to the privacy controls that CASA maintained and operated under for the period that it had access to Telecommunications Data. This request for Government Information still stands.

My request part "d)":

"d) The number of documents containing data obtained by CASA through its ongoing access to Telecommunication Data;"

should now be a trivial matter of summing the number of documents that CASA obtained, considering that the period of time that CASA, having not reapplied for access, is now a finite period. This request for Government Information still stands.

My request part "e)":

e) The number of documents containing data obtained by CASA through its ongoing access to Telecommunication Data that CASA has determined are not likely to be required for a permitted purpose and therefore has destroyed, for the period of time from since the commencement of ongoing access to the data was granted until 17th March 2017

goes to the ultimate destruction of any documents obtained or produced during the finite period that CASA had access to Telecommunications Data. This request for Government Information still stands.

I trust that this clarifies the extent of my request, under FOI, for Government Information.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Smith

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From: Anastasi, Adam
Civil Aviation Safety Authority

UNCLASSIFIED
Thanks. Yes, my email is confirmation that since the 2015 amendments, CASA
has not obtained access to data under the Act, because it was unable to.
 
As noted, from 2015, CASA could not obtain access to data. It could if,
under section 176A of the Data Retention Act, the Attorney-General
declared CASA to be an enforcement agency. I read item (a) of your request
to be seeking access to documents whereby CASA considered, and sought,
such a declaration. Please advise if that is not the  case.
 
In relation to items (b), (d) and (e), what timeframe are you seeking the
information for.
 
Adam

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From: Richard Smith

Delivered

Adam,

Thank you for your quick reply.

In regards to the two queries in your reply of 22 March 2017, I address them below.

1. "I read item (a) of your request to be seeking access to documents whereby CASA considered, and sought, such a declaration. Please advise if that is not the case."

My request in item a) i.e.

"a) Documents relating to the CASA's consideration and decision to apply for ongoing access to Telecommunications Data as per the TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INTERCEPTION AND ACCESS) ACT 1979";

is in regards to information allowing the public to see the decision making & associated justifications at the first point in time when CASA decided to access the phone records and internet browsing data of Australians.

I would imagine that this is in the form of a discussion paper or meeting minutes and subsequent request letter to the Attorney-Generals Department and would have been sometime during the 9 year period between 2006 to 2015.

2. "In relation to items (b), (d) and (e), what timeframe are you seeking the information for"

In regards to your query regarding requested timeframes for items b), d) and e), my current request in item b) applies to the entire time from when CASA began to obtain Telecommunication Data to when it ceased to collect Telecommunication Data.

Following on from that, it is inferred in my request items d) and e) that the period of concern is also the entire time from when CASA began to obtain Telecommunication Data to when it ceased to collect Telecommunication Data.

However, in considering the balance between the public's right to see the complete picture of data being collected and the practicality of searching records further back in time, I would not object to my request being narrowed to encompass only the period commencing 12:00am 1st January 2009 to the date of commencement of the Data Retention Act when CASA ceased to be an enforcement agency.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Smith

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From: Gobbitt, David
Civil Aviation Safety Authority

UNCLASSIFIED
Good morning Richard,

Thanks again for your enquiry.

I note your previous emails with Adam Anastasi, and in relation to your request for information, I provide the information below.

Firstly, I am unable to provide information for the time period 2009-10 and 2010-11, as the records are not readily available. To retrieve the requested information would entail checking every investigation conducted by CASA over a 2 year period to see whether a request was made for telecommunications data.

In relation to item (a), please see attached letter from CASA to the Attorney-General's Department dated 4 June 2015, seeking ongoing access to telecommunications data.

In relation to item (b), CASA made 0 requests for data in 2011-12, 4 requests in 2012-13, 0 requests in 2013-14, and 11 requests in 2014-15. No requests were made after the 2014-2015 year. I have attached documentation above regarding this, with the exception of 2012-13.

In relation to item (c), CASA uses restricted access technology to ensure that only authorised persons within CASAs investigations team have access to telecommunications data captured under the TIA Act. Only the relevant investigator and the head of CASA's Investigations team have access to the data collected in this manner. CASA complies with the Archives Act 1983 in its handling, storage and disposal of information.

In relation to item (e), as advised above, CASA complies with the Archives Act 1983 in the manner in which it handles the collection, storage and disposal of documents.

I'm unable to respond to item (d) as this would require a search of every investigation file. However, I am informed that, in general, the requests made in the past were phone call data and usually the data provided comprised 2-3 pages for each request.

Thanks again.

Regards
David Gobbitt A/g Freedom of Information Coordinator Legal Advisory, Drafting and Procurement Section Legal Affairs, Regulatory Policy and International Strategy Branch Civil Aviation Safety Authority

p: 02 6217 1281
GPO Box 2005 CANBERRA ACT 2606
www.casa.gov.au
   

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From: Richard Smith

Delivered

David,

Thank you for your quick reply.

I did not receive the attachment in relation to item (a). Could you please resend it.

I would also like to thank you for framing your answers in the spirit of the information I was after.

I will consider your response and revert to you shortly.

Regards,

Richard Smith

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From: Gobbitt, David
Civil Aviation Safety Authority


Attachment 201506041539.pdf
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UNCLASSIFIED
Hi Richard,

Apologies - please see attached as intended.

Regards
David Gobbitt A/g Freedom of Information Coordinator Legal Advisory, Drafting and Procurement Section Legal Affairs, Regulatory Policy and International Strategy Branch Civil Aviation Safety Authority

p: 02 6217 1281
GPO Box 2005 CANBERRA ACT 2606
www.casa.gov.au
   

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From: Richard Smith

Delivered

David,

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

I have considered your response, and believe you have substantially answered the spirit of my request for Government Information.

As to the remainder of the items that you were unable to retrieve, I am satisfied that the effort required to go through historic incident investigations is excessive, compared to the incremental benefit it would add to the information that you have released.

I therefore consider this request for FOI closed.

Thanks,

Richard Smith

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From: Gobbitt, David
Civil Aviation Safety Authority

UNCLASSIFIED
Hi Richard,

Thank you for your reply, glad the information provided was helpful.

Regards
David Gobbitt A/g Freedom of Information Coordinator Legal Advisory, Drafting and Procurement Section Legal Affairs, Regulatory Policy and International Strategy Branch Civil Aviation Safety Authority

p: 02 6217 1281
GPO Box 2005 CANBERRA ACT 2606
www.casa.gov.au
   

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