Access to private data has increased by 20 per cent by Australia’s law enforcement and government agencies – and with no warrant. Australians are 26 times more prone to be placed under surveillance than people in other countries, local media report.
In such a way, state structures accessed private information over 300,000 times last year – or 5,800 times every week, figures from the federal Attorney General’s Department showcase.
The data includes phone and internet account information, the details of out and inbound calls, telephone and internet access location data, as well as everything related to the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses visited, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reports.
Australian media report that every government agency and organization use the gathered telecommunications data, and those include the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Tax Office, Medicare and Australia Post.
New South Wales (NSW) Police became the biggest users of the private data, with 103,824 access authorizations during the last year – a third of all information accessed by the security forces.
The news triggered massive public outrage, with Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam telling SMH, ‘‘This is the personal data of hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of Australians, and it seems that just about anyone in government can get it.”
He said the move demonstrated the current data access regime was “out of control” and amounted to the framework for a “surveillance state”.
The reports come as the federal government proposes even wider surveillance powers, including a minimum two-year standard for telephone and web providers – a measure causing public controversy.
The president for the local NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, told the Australian Financial Review that, according to the statistics, recent proposals to step up police surveillance powers and keep internet and phone data for two years or more was little more than a “fishing expedition”.
“It’s stunning and completely outrageous that so much interception is going on,” Murphy said. “What seems to be happening now is this is being done as a matter of first course and not as a matter of last resort.”
The statistics gathered by the council demonstrate that Australians are 26 times more likely to be placed under surveillance than in comparable countries.
However, a spokesperson for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon indicated that “these new statistics show telephone interception and surveillance powers are playing an even greater role for police so they can successfully pursue kidnappers, murderers and organized criminals.”
Ludlam, on the other hand, detailed what the expansion should be accompanied by.
“It’s incumbent on the parliament’s national security inquiry to recommend some form of warrant authorization be introduced, and that there be a review and reduction of the government agencies that can access the personal communications data of millions of Australians,” he said.