Australia: Unprecedented surveillance bill rushed through parliament in 24 hours

The Australian government has been moving towards a surveillance state for some years already. Now they are putting the nail in the coffin with an unprecedented surveillance bill that allows the police to hack your device, collect or delete your data, and take over your social media accounts; without sufficient safeguards to prevent abuse of these new powers.

This month the Australian government has passed a sweeping surveillance bill, worse than any similar legislation in any other five eye country.

The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 gives the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) three new powers for dealing with online crime:

  • Data disruption warrant: gives the police the ability to “disrupt data” by modifying, copying, adding, or deleting it.
  • Network activity warrant: allows the police to collect intelligence from devices or networks that are used, or likely to be used, by those subject to the warrant
  • Account takeover warrant: allows the police to take control of an online account (e.g. social media) for the purposes of gathering information for an investigation.
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This is scary. But sadly just a trend that will continue. Even Germany who usually values privacy immensely is doing it:

It is allowed when:

“…there is a possibility that the suspect will commit a crime”

Thought policing pretty much. You don’t need to have done anything, since the ISP is forced to spread the trojan to every device. They are already discussing widening it, so that they can check what’s stored on your PC instead of just what you upload/communicate.

According to a survey:
60% would accept this change if used to fight criminals. Sad that people give up everything since they “have nothing to hide”.

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The actual quote is: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” However, this puts the debate into the 21st century.

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Australian here.

I should slap myself for saying that. Not sure if I should even call myself that considering how our government is handling their own country now.

The part that gets me the most is this bit:

Data disruption warrant: gives the police the ability to “disrupt data” by modifying, copying, adding, or deleting it.

What’s to stop them from falsifying data? There mere thought of having power to modify and delete data without zero oversight is just apalling.

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Democracy, liberty and freedom seems to be on a global decline.

Essential rights being slowly stripped away. Dystopian surveillance mechanisms being deployed on a scale that would make any totalitarian dictator of the past jump with intense glee. Constitutions being treated as inconveniences to be modified and worked around, rather than fundamental building blocks of free societies.

Honestly, it scares me. I believe that the next totalitarian regime rising is going to be the last one to ever exist, because even with current technology and the governmental power currently installed, any dissenting thought can be detected and dealt with before even the dissident is aware of it.

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Highlighting concerns that some folks pointed out here:

…must comply, and actively help the police

You not only must allow the government to search whatever part of your life they want to. You must also HELP them.

So if you hid your data somewhere like on an encrypted drive or something, you’d need to go unlock it for them or else you risk going to jail for the horrible crime of wanting your private life to stay private.

… Politicians justify the need for the bill by stating that it is intended to fight child exploitation (CSAM) and terrorism. However, the bill itself enables law enforcement to investigate any “serious Commonwealth offence” or “serious State offence that has a federal aspect”.

In fact, this wording enables the police to investigate any offence which is punishable by imprisonment of at least three years, including terrorism, sharing child abuse material, violence, acts of piracy, bankruptcy and company violations, and tax evasion.

36A Relationship of this Part to parliamentary privileges and immunities
To avoid doubt, this Part does not affect the law relating to the powers, privileges and immunities of any of the following:
(a) each House of the Parliament;
(b) the members of each House of the Parliament;
(c) the committees of each House of the Parliament and joint committees of both Houses of the Parliament.

Of course these officials would be exempt from the search.

But the most worrying and disturbing part of them all:

Page 17 of the act itself, section (9) (a)

“The warrant authorises… anything reasonably necessary to conceal the fact that anything has been done under the warrant or under this subsection”

So not only can data be arbitrarily modified, copied or deleted, the AFP can legally attempt to conceal the fact that anything was done.

This sounds like a litigation nightmare waiting to happen. How could someone mount a legal defense when the prosecution was able to modify their data and hide the fact (legally!) that this was done?

In Germany If police seizes your electronic devices and you have encrypted everything so extreme that they need your key, then they are not allowed to force you to give them your encryption key. They have to decrypt it on their own and if they fail, you get your devices back and charges are dropped. This is because the law states that you are not obliged to participate in something that will lead to your own conviction.

This makes no sense, because once you change the integrity of a system it is void to use as evidence for obvious reasons. I don’t know about Australia and their laws tho.

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George Orwell: I tried to warn you.

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So… what happens if you honestly cannot remember the password to an encrypted flash drive you forgot you even had?

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Not sure if hypocritical or typical of a country founded for criminals.

Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect 200 AUD.

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More reason to use something like VeraCrypt with it’s plausible deniability and hidden container features.

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