The Australian Senate has passed a controversial law giving new and powerful surveillance powers to law enforcement agencies, including 60 amendments proposed by the House of Representatives.
After The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identity and Disrupt) Bill 2020 is signed into law, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and Australian Federal Police (AFP) will have three new controversial powers to handle online crime.
We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.
The two law enforcement agencies will have “data disruption power,” whose purpose is to prevent “continuation of criminal activity by participants, and be the safest and most expedient option where those participants are in unknown locations or acting under anonymous or false identities.”
Critics, including Victoria's Senator Lidia Thorpe, pointed out that such power could be used to target a broad range of people – from political activists to young people downloading content from the internet.
“No one is safe under these new laws,” Sen. Thorpe said when the bill was first proposed last year. “It will affect grassroots communities across the country, it will affect children. It will affect anybody who downloads a movie illegally over the internet – they could go to jail for five years.”
The second power the law gives the agencies is called the network activity warrant, which allows them to monitor the internet activity of a suspect's network or device. The law also gives the AFP and ACIC the authority to control an online account to collect more information for an investigation.
Some of the recommendations by the House of Representatives did make some changes that shield journalism. But, many activists and critics still feel the bill's language does not protect vulnerable internet users.
“The scope of the new powers is disproportionate compared to the threats of serious and organized cybercrime to which they are directed,” Sen. Thorpe said on Wednesday.
“There is a lack of evidence justifying the need for warrants of this nature, beyond those already available… no other country in the Five Eyes alliance has conferred powers on its law enforcement agency that this bill will.”