The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 is currently before Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.
The Bill would allow the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to modify and delete data and collect intelligence from online communities.
There are concerns in the IT community that the legislation muddies the different roles of signals agencies and law enforcement. If passed, the bill would expand existing powers of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to give the AFP and ACIC access that will allow them to modify and delete data and collect intelligence from online communities, moving beyond the previous legislative focus on investigation and collecting evidence.
Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said the concerns with this Bill were similar to those raised when the Telecommunications (Inception and Access) Act was rushed through in late 2018. “We need to appreciate the full range of consequences when considering changes to electronic surveillance legislation and ensure it is fit-for-purpose,” she said. “Since the previous legislation was enacted, it has been used 11 times by law enforcement agencies mainly for illicit drug and robbery offences and in one instance in a cybercrime investigation. None of the agencies used the powers for terrorism-related offences in spite of this being the primary rationale behind the Federal Government rushing the laws through in 2018.”
“In 2018 when that Bill became law, IT Professionals Australia called on the Government to consult more widely and take the concerns about the law enforcement powers raised in the Consultation – concerns that remain widely-held by tech stakeholders – more seriously into account – and we continue to hold these concerns about this piece of proposed legislation. We need to ensure a balance between investigative and law enforcement powers alongside individuals’ right to privacy and freedom of expression,” she said.
Ms McCabe said the implications of the proposed legislation on privacy and security were profound. “The potential impact is very serious and we call on the Government to fully consider all the concerns raised before the Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee.”