Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2021

Recently, both houses of the Australian federal parliament passed the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 (Identify and Disrupt Bill). What the bill aims to do is curb cyber-crime and online criminal activity through the issuance of three types of warrants. 

What the warrants do is basically provide the Australian police and Law-enforcement agencies, like the Australian Criminal Investigation Commission, the power to;

  1. Permanently alter or just delete the data of suspected offenders (data disruption warrants) 
  2. Collect information and intelligence on criminal networks (network activity warrants)
  3. Take control over the social media and online activity of suspected offenders (account takeover warrants) 

The authoritarian sound of this bill does not end here. Any person helping with government hacking is protected from any kind of prosecution and has no civil liability. However, refusal to cooperate with government orders could even lead up to 10 years of imprisonment. With the introduction of anonymizing technologies, internet criminal networks are continuously expanding and evolving, making detection of major online crime nearly impossible. Encrypted and protected platforms like discord have reported that over 500 illegal items have been sold over their platforms taking the cost of such items over $100,000. This even after Discord have a zero tolerance policy for sale of illegal items. 

The Australian Information Commissioner has already relayed his doubts over this bill. According to him this bill has the ability to impinge upon the privacy of individuals. He explained this through a simple explanation stating that suspicion, since it is a human funda, can always be wrong, which would mean that a suspected criminal could even be innocent. 

The explanation provided in the lower house was that because of the complexity of online crime, law enforcement organizations are increasingly required to level the playing field, identify suspected criminal behavior, and intercept it before it is carried out. However, the balanced treatment of individual privacy rights has sparked heated controversy during the legislation’s passage thus far. 

The bill awaits royal assent for now. 

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