Australian police given sweeping new hacking powers
Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission have received brand new surveillance powers in the form of sweeping legislation with bipartisan support, enabling them to track suspected criminals online.
The Identify and Disrupt bill was passed on August 25 by the Australian Senate, introducing three new warrants empowering authorities to take unprecedented action against the suspected criminals. The controversial part of the bill is that the amended warrants authorize police to hack the personal computers and internet networks of those suspected as well as seize their social media identities as far as disrupting their online data.
Karen Andrews, the Australian Home Minister, has praised the expansion of powers vested on Australian police, saying it would help better targeting of cybercriminals. Andrews particularly commented on the availability of “more tools to pursue organised crime gangs”, suggesting it would help ward off drug-related crimes and crimes against children.
Senator Lidia Thorpe from the minor party The Greens, however, slammed the bill saying it is Australia’s march down to transforming into a “surveillance state.” She protested that what is “outrageous” about the bill is that the data disruption activity warrant is permissible to be issued by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and it “won’t come from a judge of a superior court.”
According to reports, 60 amendments were made to the final bill after the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) submitted its final recommendations, where 10 out of the total 33 suggestions by the security committee were ignored.
The PJCIS also recommended that warrants can only be issued if the crimes committed concern weapons, serious narcotics, cybercrime, money laundering and criminal association offences and crimes against humanity. The government has pledged to go through PJCIS’s recommendations through updated intelligence surveillance apparatus.