Privacy on the net to end, human rights group warns

A mass surveillance regime will tomorrow, 13 October, convert Australia’s communications industry into a government surveillance and monitoring agency.

Liberty Victoria said today that few people would be fully aware of the vast reach of this legislation and the potential for it to be used by some government agencies to spy on individuals.

From tomorrow, telecommunications companies and internet service providers will be required to keep their customers’ telecommunications data.  This will include information relating to the customer’s identity, the date, time, duration and location of a range of communications. This personal information must be kept for 2 years and can be accessed without a warrant or any pre-access oversight.

Liberty Victoria President George Georgiou SC said:
“We are concerned about the long list of agencies permitted to access telecommunications data, without judicial warrant, which includes regulators such as ASIC and the ACCC. It has been recommended that the ATO be added to the list. The legislation goes much further than is necessary for the prevention of terrorism or serious crime as there is no gravity of conduct threshold that limits access to the data.”  

“Nothing in the Act can stop investigative `fishing expeditions’ or systemic abuse of power, except retrospective oversight by the Commonwealth Ombudsman,” Mr Georgiou said.

“What’s more, a two-year jail sentence can be given to anyone found to have disclosed information about instances of data access.”

He said the public needs to understand – and protest about – the fact that this data will reveal much about their lives including professional activities and private habits.

Liberty Victoria is concerned that under the guise of fighting terrorism the government is taking on the mantle of repressive regimes which it so vehemently denounces.