6 September 2021 - 7:36 am
The Australian Parliament just passed the “Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2021”. The summary of this new Bill is as follows:
Amends: the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 and Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 to: introduce data disruption warrants to enable the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to disrupt data by modifying, adding, copying or deleting data in order to frustrate the commission of serious offences online; and make minor technical corrections; the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 to introduce network activity warrants to enable the AFP and ACIC to collect intelligence on serious criminal activity by permitting access to the devices and networks used to facilitate criminal activity; the Crimes Act 1914 to: introduce account takeover warrants to enable the AFP and ACIC to take over a person’s online account for the purposes of gathering evidence to further a criminal investigation; and make minor amendments to the controlled operations regime to ensure controlled operations can be conducted effectively in the online environment; and 10 Acts to make consequential amendments.https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r6623
As with all Governments introducing sweeping new powers that they wish to abuse, the definitions of the various aspects of this Bill that theoretically prevent it’s use outside it’s stated purpose are deliberately vague, open to interpretation and subject to reclassification of other things to allow the powers this Bill grants to be used wherever the Government wants to. The timing of this Bill is also noteworthy of course.
Aspects of this Bill just looking at that summary that should be of immediate concern are that this can be used, the Australian Police can log in to any online account of any citizen and start “modifying, adding, copying or deleting data” to make “make minor technical corrections”. Have you expressed wrongthink, or written something the Government doesn’t like? Don’t worry they will “correct” it for you. What is defined as “serious criminal activity”, the threshold at which these powers can be used, is based on the potential length of a prison sentence, which can obviously be changed at any time.
The Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS) team have written a good piece about this. One of their legitimate concerns is that this can and will be used against activists who oppose the Government. When you understand this new law allows the Australian Government to log into private citizen’s emails, Facebook and Instagram accounts, post things, delete things and change things, it should not be difficult to see how open to abuse this is.
There are groups such as MALS and individuals who are opposing this new Bill, and it remains to be seen how effective that opposition is, given that the Australian Government could now “legally” use these new super-admin powers to simply remove the objections from the internet.
Remember, if your Government in your country isn’t doing this already, they will.