Thursday, 02 October 2014 06:10

Surveillance laws pass – Government can tap the entire Australian Internet Featured

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Australia’s security agencies now have the power to access any computer in Australia, for any reason. They don’t have to let you know why, or even if they are doing it at all.

Big Brother has been knocking on the door, and the Government – and the so-called Opposition – have let him in. Legislation greatly increasing the Government’s surveillance powers has passed both houses of Parliament, supported by both major political parties.

Under the new National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and its shadowy offshore counterpart the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) can monitor any device attached to any other device with just a single warrant. The definition of ‘connection’ is very loose, and effectively means that all devices connected to the Internet are covered.

The legislation was easily passed in the current environment of confected outrage against Islamic terrorism. The ‘opposition’ Labor Party supported the bills, not wishing to be seen as soft on terrorism. Only the Australian Greens and libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm opposed the bill.

The powers given to ASIO and ASIS under the bills are extraordinary. They are truly Orwellian. The have been justified by the Government as a necessary counter to a threat that has seen no deaths on Australian soil and which has been greatly magnified by sensationalist articles in many sections of the press – most notably the Murdoch tabloids.

Under the legislation ASIO – or ASIS – can access any device attached to a network. It can alter information on that device, and its actions are not required to be disclosed. If the actions take place under a Government designated ‘special intelligence operation’, any consequences arising from the agency’s actions, even if those actions are illegal, are not allowed to be reported.

Indeed, any reporting on any specific ASIO’s activity is now prohibited, with journalists and others facing ten year in jail for doing their jobs. It is now 20 years since Sun Microsystem’s Scott McNealy said “you have no privacy – get over it.” It was a bit of a joke at the time – no more.

But what are we worried about? “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.” We can trust the Government and its spy agencies not to abuse their powers.

Can’t we?

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson sadly passed away in Jan 2021 and a much valued senior associate editor at iTWire. He was one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is the author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’He was in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism. Graeme will be sadly missed by the iTWire Family, Readers, Customers and PR firms.

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