Peter Dutton is trying to expand the power of police to be able to delete and take over criminals’ accounts with a new surveillance law. And a group of Australian senators said the proposed law leaves a lot of questions to be answered.
On Friday, the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of bills put out its latest report about some of the new bills are before Parliament.
Among them is the controversial Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020. The proposed law introduces three new warrants:
- A data disruption warrant, which lets the AFP and ACIC modify, add, copy or delete data to stop and inhibit crimes.
- A network activity warrants, which gives police access to devices and networks belonging to suspected criminals.
- And account takeover warrants, which lets police take over online accounts to gather evidence for an investigation.
And in the Committee’s digest, they’ve dropped a few ‘please explains’ to Dutton about a variety of provisions that they fear will lead to government overreach, the erosion of privacy — all that good stuff.
Some of their questions include:
- The law allows members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunals (i.e. non-judges) and, in an emergency, executives of the police agencies grant officers award warrants. Why should non-judicial officers have this power?
- Despite the bill’s explanatory memorandum saying the law is about serious crime, why do these warrants apply to offences that can incur just three years in prison, including illegal gambling, bankruptcy and misuse of a computer?
- If an emergency order is granted by a non-judge which is then overturned by a judge, why does the Act allow to keep whatever information they gleaned from a warrant that shouldn’t have been granted?
- Why can these warrants also apply to anyone who is in a “electronically linked criminal network of individuals” which could include two or more individuals in electronic communications (a.k.a. group chats)?
Which all seem like legit questions to answer because, if this goes through as is, the worst case scenario is that a non-judge could order that the police delete your account and download all your data because you’re in a group chat with someone who was suspected of tax fraud. Yikes!
This Senate Committee isn’t even the ‘big boss’ of parliamentary committees. The bill is also being reviewed the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which is calling for submissions until the end of next week.
Incredibly, this isn’t the only controversial surveillance law proposed by Dutton lately. Just goes to show, people always want more (expansion of the state panopticon)!