Data hitch hinders child porn arrests

UP TO one in four potential child porn offenders are escaping investigation or arrest because the Australian Federal Police has no access to critical telecommunications data.

In the shadow of a worldwide child porn offensive - codenamed Operation Holitna - the AFP Assistant Commissioner and National Manager of High Tech Crime Operations Neil Gaughan said the AFP supported a plan to reform Australia's data retention laws.

A Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security into these laws will govern what internet and phone data can be accessed by who, how much, and what hoops need to be leapt through before they are given the go-ahead.

There is some contention over potential reforms due to fears they could erode individual privacy if authorities are able to monitor someone without needing currently mandatory approvals.

Those fears must now be weighed up with the lightning speed at which the online landscape is evolving.

Through Holitna, Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said the AFP had a number of Australians allegedly involved in sexually abusing children, creating the pornography and scattering it worldwide.

He said 25% were unable to be identified because telecommunications data was not held for long enough.

During a separate operation in May 2011, one-third of those potentially involved in child pornography could not be found because unique identifying labels known as IP addresses had been lost by internet suppliers.

Greens communications spokesman Senator Scott Ludlum supported the AFP, as long as due process was not lost.

"I thoroughly support the ability of police to do this work but it should not be warrantless," Senator Ludlum said.

"Several hundred years of legal protection has served us quite well. I see no reason to jettison those."

Despite the occasional brick walls, Mr Gaughan said the AFP arrested 93 as it investigated the sexual exploitation of children amongst other child sex crimes.

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