Australia’s new ‘hacking’ powers considered too wide-ranging and coercive by OAIC

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The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has labelled the powers given to two law enforcement bodies within three new computer warrants as “wide-ranging and coercive in nature”.

The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020, if passed, would hand the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) the new warrants for dealing with online crime.

The first of the warrants is a data disruption one, which according to the Bill’s explanatory memorandum, is intended to be used to prevent “continuation of criminal activity by participants, and be the safest and most expedient option where those participants are in unknown locations or acting under anonymous or false identities”.

The second is a network activity warrant that would allow the AFP and ACIC to collect intelligence from devices that are used, or likely to be used, by those subject to the warrant.

The last warrant is an account takeover warrant that would allow the agencies to take control of an account for the purposes of locking a person out of the account.

See also: Intelligence review recommends new electronic surveillance Act for Australia

“The OAIC acknowledges the importance of law enforcement agencies being authorised to respond to cyber-enabled and serious crime. However, the Bill’s proposed powers are wide-ranging and coercive in nature,” it wrote [PDF].

It said, for example, data disruption and network activity warrants may authorise entering specified premises, removing computers or data, and intercepting communications. Network activity warrants, OAIC said, can authorise the use of surveillance devices, and both data disruption and network activity warrants may authorise the concealment of certain activities done under these warrants.

“These powers may adversely impact the privacy of a large number of individuals, including individuals not suspected of involvement in criminal activity, and must therefore be subject to a careful and critical assessment of their necessity, reasonableness, and proportionality,” its submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on…