Mass surveillance and State sponsored/directed spying and tracking of citizens scored another victory recently in the summer of 2021. The Australian government passed a massive Surveillance bill (in less than 24 hours) that not only grants them the power to monitor it’s citizens online activity, but to also actively intervene,interrupt (Hack) and modify (Frame?) online accounts and data. It comes as no surprise to those who’ve been paying attention to Australia’s slide toward technocratic Authoritarianism. Australia (much like it’s Five eye’s intelligence partners)has had for many years a developing Mass surveillance infrastructure.
In the lead up to this,in 2018 Australia passed the TOLA act,which allowed Law enforcement and Intelligence agencies the ability to(Read:Coerce) “compel communications providers to provide assistance in accessing content as well as extensions to warrant-based collection powers.” The act also gave the power to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO),to grant immunity from prosecution any provider/entity that would provide assistance.
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. While it’s called a warrant, there is an emergency authorization process for cases when it is “not practicable” to get a warrant. So a data disruption “warrant” can be issued under something referred to as an emergency authorization,which means that Australia now has a warrant less surveillance regime on the books.
A Network activity warrant: Which allows the police to collect intelligence from devices or networks that are used, or likely to be used, by those subject to the warrant. This “warrant” power allows access to networks where there is suspicion of serious online offenses,although what qualifies as “serious” has a variety of definitions in the legislation. The definitions are purposely vague so as to allow broad interpretation,which would enable widespread surveillance across social media and messaging platforms.
An 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. This power also allows for the ability to lock the account holder out. This can be done covertly and without consent, so the individual wouldn’t necessarily know what is going on until or if they are ever charged.The warrant is applicable for a maximum of 90 days (though extensions are possible) — so that is the length of time a law enforcement officer can impersonate you or use your accounts to monitor your activity and gather information.
Even with all the broad spying powers introduced by this bill, There was at least one “recommendation” for public advocacy & introducing a public interest advocate into this process. A public interest candidate is someone who would argue on behalf of the affected individual in the room where as now only a police officer and a judge get to play judge and jury. But As it stands, the Australian government remains uninterested in allowing individuals to defend their rights: there is no one to argue on your behalf, and there is never any notification to the individual (even after the fact) so you will never know if you were subject to any of these powers.
Being that the bill was passed with little opposition,and rushed through the legislature with all parties in lockstep with the surveillance agenda. Australia’s government has shown it’s contempt for it’s citizens privacy in order to accrue more powers for “fighting online crime”. Continuing the global trend (Since 2001) of developed nations curtailing citizens civil liberties,in the name of “national security”.
Surveilling Citizen’s protests – Equal opportunity across the board
Australia’s government has a significant history of monitoring it’s citizens movements,especially in the case of citizens protests. Which includes protests of all kinds,not just the most recent protests against government Covid lockdowns and Emergency Pandemic legislation. Climate activist protestors have also been targeted by Australian police for surveillance & harassment. In the post 9-11 & GWOT era these surveillance powers had been used against “fighting terrorism” and since that was a vague enough excuse for the growth of Global mass surveillance,it’s now continued on in the Covid era,in the name of “public health and safety”. So for those who may be out protesting in a “Noble social justice”capacity,or in a (red pill right wing)rage fueled Anti-Government stance, they’re all watched under the same umbrella of State Surveillance in protecting it’s own narrow interests,no matter what propagandistic language those justifications may be couched in.