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Explosive probe reveals Aussie police illegally accessed metadata more than 3,000 times

Explosive probe reveals Aussie police illegally accessed metadata more than 3,000 times
An investigation into Australian police has explosively revealed that the force illegally accessed metadata 3,249 times more than the mere 116 incidents previously reported.

Earlier this week, an investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman revealed that the Australian Capital Territory Police (ACT) had accessed data without authorization 116 times since 2015. However on Friday police admitted that a follow-up examination of the findings found 3,249 more instances between March and October 2015, where the person signing off on the access did not have the authorization to do so.

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Police revealed that some of the illegally obtained data included identifying people by a phone number in order to investigate crimes or locate missing people. In at least two instances, the data may have resulted in prosecution, while the information from 240 requests was deemed “of value” to ongoing investigations.

‘Journalists are not above the law’

In a statement, the police claimed that while two warrants targeted journalists, none of the numbers obtained were to uncover journalistic sources.

In relation to the warrants, Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson told reporters that a story published or broadcast by the journalist was “connected to the whole reasoning for the investigation” and police were “attempting to identify how the information was sought.”

“Journalists are not above the law, as much as the media may not like me saying that, and so if there’s a good reason to investigate an allegation of criminality, the police must do their job,” he said.

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Police say the debacle is a result of an administrative oversight in which the Australian Federal Police Commissioner failed to delegate an ACT Police person to manage the requests from March 2015, resulting in the person who previously held the position to continue issuing authorities unawares. 

The force says changes have been made to minimize the risk of similar breaches happening again. It is also seeking legal advice regarding the two cases where the data was used in prosecution.

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