Australia’s Government Passes a New Surveillance Bill

The bill enables law enforcement agencies to hack your device, collect or delete your data, take over your social media accounts without a judge's warrant.

Australia New Surveillance Bill

Australia may be a democracy but that doesn’t mean its government doesn’t spy on the citizens. And the new law has cleared the way to do that with little to no restrictions.

The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 (Identify and Disrupt Bill) passed both houses of Australia’s federal parliament on August 25th, after being approved by the parliament within 24 hours.

With the bill in effect, law enforcement agencies are able to legally hack your device, collect or delete your data, and even take over your social media accounts if they deem necessary — and do that without a judge’s warrant.

The summary

The new surveillance bill introduces several amends to existing laws, including:

  • The Surveillance Devices Act 2004 and Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 – introducing data disruption warrants that enable the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to disrupt data by modifying, adding, copying, or deleting data to frustrate the commission of serious offenses online.
  • The Surveillance Devices Act 2004 – to introduce network activity warrants that 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 – introducing account takeover warrants to enable the AFP and ACIC to take over a person’s account to gather 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.

Yes, it sounds scary, but…

What does the law mean for Australians?

The new law provides Australian law enforcement agencies with the legal power to identify and intercept an online user under suspicion of criminal activity. Specifically, it introduces three new warrants:

  1. Data Disruption Warrant – allows the authorities to modify or delete the data of suspected offenders.
  2. Network Activity Warrant – allows them to collect intelligence on criminal networks.
  3. Account Takeover Warrant – allows them to take control of a suspected offenders’ online account such as those on Facebook, Google and so on.

Furthermore, a person assisting the government in hacking into an individual’s account is protected from civil liability. Cause if they refuse to cooperate, they could face up to 10 years in prison. It’s scary…

How does this reflect on online privacy in Australia?

Yes, online criminal activity is increasing across the board, and detecting online crime is becoming more difficult with the day, but…

Should we as a society force or threaten with jail time tech-savvy people into helping the government do its dirty work? And we do realize some of that work could save a ton of money and even lives. Nevertheless, laws like these put the online privacy of Australians at risk.

Even the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) cautioned that the upcoming surveillance warrants could have a catastrophic impact on the privacy of Australians and people visiting the country — especially those who have no involvement in criminal activity. Alas, those cautions landed on deaf ears.

In the ideal scenario, the law enforcement agency would first identify suspected criminal activity, then intercept the communication without the individual knowing about it, and then if they find proof – take action against the individual.

But what if they don’t find anything suspicious? Well, nothing happens, even though one’s privacy has been violated. In that sense, we keep advising our readers to…

Use a VPN to keep a low profile on the web

A good VPN will encrypt all your communication, making it that much harder for anyone — like Australia’s authorities — to keep up with every step you make online. Also, it will make it harder for the likes of Google and Facebook to track your whereabouts and serve you their “relevant” ads — effectively turning you into a product along the way.

You will also be able to access sites and services that would otherwise be outside of your reach — from all countries in the world. Plus, you’ll benefit from increased protection while connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots.

If you’re still looking for a VPN for yourself, we suggest trying PureVPN – cause their blog post inspired us to write this article. Hit the link below and get yourself rock-solid VPN protection. You deserve it.

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