Feature Article

Australia follows UK, US, enters into new era of suspicion

[TamilNet, Sunday, 26 August 2012, 14:47 GMT]
Under the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 passed in the Australian Parliament this week, new laws enable the law enforcement authority in Australia to compel Internet Service Providers and Telecommunication Carriers to "collect, monitor and retain" internet records of users. While laws allowing more serious incursion into privacy have been postponed passage until after next year's election, civil activists questioned the haste to pass legislation before public and parliamentary debate and commented that the bill's passage "reflects an international trend towards the enactment of harmonised laws to the detriment of national sovereignty."

Writing on privacy matters in a popular Australian website, Kellie Tranter writes: "Civil liberties groups are right to question whether the proposed changes will be used as a tool for turning open source data into intelligence to block whistleblowers, legitimate political dissent and political movements and to spy on the activities, interests and political views of innocent ordinary citizens.

"Where does the impetus for legislative changes like these come from? Seldom do we see empirical data that supports claims for the expansion of such powers. The intended purpose is always publicly stated in the same way: we need to ensure that police and intelligence services keep technological pace with criminals and terrorists," the author further writes.

U.S. is leading the trend in taking advantage of the social-networking sites including Facebook and Twitter which operate a form of self-surveillance. NewScientist noted that in June U.S. Department of State asked software developers to supply tools that provide "deep analysis of topics, conversations, networks, and influencers of the global social web". These tools will analyse conversations taking place in at least seven foreign languages, including Chinese and Arabic.

In the U.K. draft Communications Data Bill (dubbed "the snoopers’ charter") which is projected to cost the taxpayer £2.5bn over the next decade, the British government routinely sweeps up the identities of thousands of people in a given area — via a single request to a mobile phone network.

The "surveillance rate" for Australian citizens (per capita) by phone surveillance already is vastly greater than the rate for US citizens, Tranter writes. "If the current proposal is picked up after the next election Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) will have the ability to "plant material on people’s computers, and destroy material and go through a third party’s computer to do so; criminalizing refusing to cooperate with government decryption attempts and freeing up ASIO agents to break the law if it helps to stay undercover.""

A former employee William Binney of the US National Security Agency (NSA) said after resigning, NSA has "massive power to spy on Americans with the Utah Spy Centre containing huge databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency, including private emails, mobile phone calls, Google searches and other personal data." Binney warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could "create an Orwellian state.

External Links:
NewScientist: Big Brother is watching Facebook and Twitter
DemocracyNow: National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance
NM: You Are All Under Surveillance
ASIO: Australian Security Intelligence Organization
AusGov: Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011
Wiki: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell


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