Another big story from Right To Know, and how you can do it too

Screenshot showing the released document that has a table of agency names

Over recent weeks there’s been lots of interest in a story about Australia’s mandatory data retention regime. In passing these controversial laws last year the government agreed to reign in the number of agencies able to access your data. However, the laws allowed agencies to re-apply for access. Two weeks ago it was discovered that over 60 agencies have done just that. This discovery was reported by most major news organisations in Australia.

While mandatory data retention concerns the OpenAustralia Foundation–after all, most of what we do is on the internet–this post isn’t about that. It’s about the largely untold story behind this recent discovery. It was all down to one person who is deeply concerned about the implications of data retention.

A couple of months ago Geordie Guy submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request publicly using our FOI request site Right To Know. What sparked all of the media interest recently is that his request was successful and it revealed the names of most of the 61 agencies seeking warrantless access to your metadata.

Dozens of news stories over several days, all from one person’s request on Right To Know.

The amazing thing is that you can do this too, about the issues that you care about. As you can read in his fascinating article about the process he went through, Geordie knows a thing or two about the FOI process. But you don’t need to and that’s the great thing about Right To Know.

When the agency initially indicated they were planning to refuse his request, Geordie cleverly changed its scope. If you were making a request and the same thing happened, you could add an annotation to your request asking for help from the fabulous community on Right To Know. They’ll almost certainly help you get the information you’re after.

Usually requests are free but in this case the agency decided to charge over $500 for access to these documents. This didn’t stop Geordie either. He successfully crowdfunded the fees for the request in just two and half hours. This isn’t the first time someone has crowdfunded FOI requests on Right To Know. It once again shows that there are people out there ready to support your quest for public access to important documents.

Have a listen to Heidi Pett’s story about this case on ABC Radio National’s PM programme. It’s one of the few media reports that looks at the full story and acknowledges the passionate individuals and volunteers that helped this this important information about our data retention system see the light of day.

We hope it will inspire you to make your own request for information about something you care about. Go ahead and create a new request on Right To Know now.

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