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Australia calls for more online snooping

by on25 September 2012

Aussies want to beat Big Brother Blighty

The Australian government is planning to bring in some Big Brother laws which makes the UK's snooping charter look as nasty and challenging as an episode of Neighbours.

According the Sydney Morning Herald Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon is running around various government departments getting support for an extension of her surveillance powers. One of the most controversial is a requirement that telecommunications and internet service providers retain at least two years of data for access by government agencies.

Since the Second World War, Australia has been a bit enthusiastic about phone tapping its citizens ever since David Forbes Martyn who brought radar technology to Australia in 1939 was target of the first telephone tapping and bugging operation by Aussie spooks 70 years ago.

In 1996-97, law enforcement agencies carried out 675 phone taps. By 2001-02 the annual number had grown to 2157 and last year the figure had risen to 3488. American federal and state judges issued only 1491 wiretap authorisations for law enforcement purposes in 2001. By 2011 the US figure had risen to 2732 warrants. This means that telephone tapping is more than 18 times higher in Australia.

Data accessed includes phone and internet account information, outwards and inwards call details, internet access, and details of websites visited, though not the actual content of communications. Federal government agencies gaining access to such data include ASIO, AFP, the Australian Crime Commission, the Tax Office, the departments of Defence, Immigration and Citizenship and Health and Ageing, and Medicare.

Attorney-General Roxon is now saying that a further expansion of surveillance and data access is required to ensure national security and community safety. According to Roxon, action is required to ensure that vital investigative tools are not lost as telecommunications providers update their business practices and begin to delete data more regularly and more Australians communicate online in a wider variety of ways. She said that the loss of this capability would be a major blow to our law enforcement agencies and to Australia's national security.

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