• DSD indicated it could provide material without some privacy restraints imposed by other countries such as Canada
• Medical, legal or religious information ‘not automatically limited’
• Concern that intelligence agency could be ‘operating outside its legal mandate’
theguardian.com, Sunday 1 December 2013 19.20 EST
Australia’s surveillance agency offered to share information collected about ordinary Australian citizens with its major intelligence partners, according to a secret 2008 document leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share “medical, legal or religious information”, and increases concern that the agency could be operating outside its legal mandate, according to the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC.
The Australian intelligence agency, then known as the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), indicated it could share bulk material without some of the privacy restraints imposed by other countries, such as Canada.
“DSD can share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national,” notes from an intelligence conference say. “Unintentional collection is not viewed as a significant issue.”
The agency acknowledged that more substantial interrogation of the material would, however, require a warrant.
Metadata is the information we all generate whenever we use technology, from the date and time of a phone call to the location from which an email is sent.
“Bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata” means that this data is in its raw state, and nothing has been deleted or redacted in order to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens who might have been caught in the dragnet. Metadata can present a very complete picture of someone’s life.