Secret Govt. Spy Powers Coming Here—via Australia

The Australian government has given itself an enormous surveillance tool. It’s hurriedly passed a law giving police the power to spy on suspects online, modify their data and take over their accounts.

“That could never happen here,” I hear you cry. Some say it already has—by proxy. The nature of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance means rules in one country can be used in the other four.

Jane Fonda knows. So do Angela Merkel and Kim Dotcom. In today’s SB Blogwatch, we think of the children.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: Combating Dunning-Kruger.

Next Up: The Other Four Eyes

What’s the craic? Paul Karp reports—“Australian powers to spy on cybercrime suspects given green light”:

Rushed these laws through
The identify and disrupt bill passed … despite concerns about the low bar of who can authorise a warrant, and that the government failed to implement all the safeguards recommended by the bipartisan joint committee on intelligence and security. [It] creates three new types of warrants to enable the [law enforcement] to modify and delete data, take over accounts and spy on Australians … suspected of committing crimes.

In August 2020 the then home affairs minister Peter Dutton claimed the new powers would target terrorists, paedophiles and drug traffickers operating online, such as on the dark web, and would apply “to those people and those people only.” [But] Labor MP Andrew Giles told the lower house on Tuesday … “tax offences, trademark infringements and a range of other offences” would enliven the powers, not just the offences of “child abuse and exploitation, and terrorism” … used to justify the bill.

Kieran Pender, the senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, [said] the bill’s powers “are unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive. They should have been narrowed to what is strictly necessary and subject to robust safeguards. … It is alarming that, instead of accepting the committee’s recommendations and allowing time for scrutiny of subsequent amendments, the Morrison government rushed these laws through parliament in less than 24 hours.”

Wow. And Hanna Bozakov calls it an “Unprecedented surveillance bill”:

Undermines our right to privacy
Australian police can now hack your device, collect or delete your data, take over your social media. … The Australian government has been moving towards a surveillance state for some years already.

Now they are putting the nail in the coffin. [It’s] worse than any similar legislation in any other five-eyes country.

What makes this legislation even worse is that there is no judicial oversight. A data disruption or network activity warrant could be issued by a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal—a warrant from a judge of a superior court is not needed.

[The] wording enables the police to investigate any offence which is punishable by imprisonment of at least three years, including … acts of piracy, bankruptcy and company violations, and tax evasion. … Having the ability to secretly hack into people’s computers, take over their social media channels, and spy on them fundamentally undermines our right to privacy.

But Australia? DevMac, for one, wants to know why:

Why is Australia leading the pack?
This is worrisome. It’s not like Australia is some kind of hotbed for this kind of extreme illegality either, so why is Australia leading the pack?

Why indeed? What’s behind this? u/TheMania sees through a glass, darkly:

All part of the game
This is above police. [It] helps support the Five Eyes intelligence network.

Whenever something gets rubber stamped by both [main parties] and the local Australian media puts barely a peep out, you can assume … it’s more about our US alliance than it is local law enforcement.

One reason this bypasses the local courts is it’s to allow Australian authorities to plant evidence on even US citizens, at the behest of the US govt. [It’s] all part of the game.

Australia is a small western country, we can take the fall for the big guys with backroom deals providing returns. Doubt we will ever know what backscratch we’re getting in return for this one, or if it’s just expected that we’ll do it to maintain good relations.

Oh, I see. And paulxnuke proves Godwin’s law:

Full Nazi
I really hate to say this, but between this and COVID, Australia seems to have gone full Nazi. I always wanted to visit both Oz and Hong Kong. Looks like I waited too long for both.

A bit strong? Perhaps you’d prefer this simile, from Daniel Cuthbert—@dcuthbert:

It is very Minority Report
Well thats one hell of a way to combat the ‘Going Dark’ issue [law enforcement] have faced for years. … The modify data element is intriguing, one assumes this would be at rest not in transit given the advances of in-transport crypto.

It is very Minority Report. A suspect, device(s) and hunting for potential issues, thats a slippery slope. The alarming thing is how CSAM again is the driving force. It’s sad how so many latch onto that to push an agenda.

IANAL. However, chain of custody, audit logs that are bulletproof to show operators did what they said they did so as to not introduce false evidence etc. … will be the hardest part of any system.

ikr? So does u/karrotbear:

It wasn't me
Yeah, how will they prove the validity of their findings if they could alter it willy-nilly. How would they track that? Suspect just says, “It wasn’t me, maybe it was you.”

What could possibly go wrong? LSWCHP sounds slightly sarcastic:

Mr Plod
Yeah, I’m pretty sure there’ll be no scope creep or improper usage of this crap. Criticise the government, and a few days later your social media will be full of posts containing pedophile images and arrangements for terrorist attacks, placed there by Mr Plod.

Meanwhile, here’s John.Banister:

These modifications to the relationship between the government and the citizens should help Australia to become acceptable to China fairly soon. … Social Credit next?

And Finally:

Combating the Dunning-Kruger effect

Previously in And Finally

You have been reading SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites … so you don’t have to. Hate mail may be directed to @RiCHi or [email protected]. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE. 30.

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Richi Jennings

Richi Jennings is a foolish independent industry analyst, editor, and content strategist. A former developer and marketer, he’s also written or edited for Computerworld, Microsoft, Cisco, Micro Focus, HashiCorp, Ferris Research, Osterman Research, Orthogonal Thinking, Native Trust, Elgan Media, Petri, Cyren, Agari, Webroot, HP, HPE, NetApp on Forbes and Bizarrely, his ridiculous work has even won awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, ABM/Jesse H. Neal, and B2B Magazine.

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