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Australian police fudge answers when asked if they use spyware on citizens, raising alarms

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During a written interview with Budget Estimates, the NSW police representative, Mick Fuller, dismissed the question of whether they were using some type of Spyware software on electronic devices to monitor criminal defense attorneys.

Extreme security measures

Although Commissioner Fuller answered several questions about operational concerns of the New South Wales police force, at one point in the interview he was asked about the use of Spyware in Australian citizens, more specifically in criminal defenses.

The officer avoided responding to the Parliament of New South Wales by simply saying “It is not clear what they mean with Spyware in the context of the question.” This response was described as “derogatory” by Parliamentarian David Shoebridge, who requests that Fuller should give a more precise answer.

The information shared between a client and his/her lawyer should be confidential, however, it was recently revealed that a Melbourne lawyer had been used as a police informant to be able to sentence anyone who she defended without difficulty, suggesting that there are no limitations to police investigation tactics.

Many lawyers have avoided using cell phones and computers because of the possible risk of being watched by the police.

A controversial software

Despite the refusal to respond about the specific use of Spywares, Commissioner Fuller did show himself in favor of using this type of software in cases where a court order is required.

This seems to confirm the information that ABC received from a group of security experts, who indicated that the NSW police have a license of the Finfisher spying program, which is used to track complex criminal operations, such as terrorism and drug marketing – or at least in theory.

This software does not have a very good reputation as it has been used to repress democratic activists in countries such as Egypt or Ethiopia. 

The program allows the user to remotely control cameras and microphones on infected devices. Its power is such that it can even be used when the devices are turned off.

Shoebridge seems to know about this information, who indicated that the commissioner should point out how they prevent the use of this program to violate key legal protections of each citizen.

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