Australian surveillance law will legalize snooping on and hacking the entire Internet

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation wants the power to break into any computer on the Internet and to spy on any person in the world: Liberal MP Philip Ruddock says "We are now looking at how you find out what people are thinking about even before they do it."

UNSW's Professor George Williams said it could extend as far as the entire internet.

"I suppose the short answer is: the internet is a computer network, and it is commonly understood as such, and that is why there is some understandable confusion that attaches to these words, because clearly it ought not to be directed at that. But, if that is the case, you would want to see text in the legislation making that clear," he said.

At UNSW alone, Williams said, a computer network would cover 55,000 people, and slammed the drafting of the legislation for not adopting the definition of a network that was recommended by the committee in 2012, that simply expanded the definition under a warrant to include multple computers operating in a network.

Electronic Frontiers Australia's executive officer Jon Lawrence also indicated that the proposal could cover the entire internet.

"It is quite arguable that the definition could be applied to the entire internet, given the way the legislation is currently worded. That will need some additional work to tie that down to what we believe the department is actually proposing."

New powers could give ASIO a warrant for the entire internet [Josh Taylor/Zdnet]

(Images: El oso y el CCTV, Daniel Lobo, CC-BY; Australia ranks low on world index over surveillance concerns, Vincent Brown, CC-BY)

Notable Replies

  1. angusm says:

    "Don't use your phone and don't use mine
    Don't speak treason, they're tapping the line
    Break-in, stake out, tell it in code
    Everything is legal, anything goes
    The nights gettin' darker and the ill wind blows
    Your life's in a databank at ASIO."
    ["ASIO", Redgum]

    References to VDUs and telexes aside, it seems like not that much has changed since that song was written 30 years ago.

  2. Awwww .... isn't that cute? The ASIO wants to grow up to be just like the NSA and GCHQ (snark emoticon here)

    Seriously, we need a "people's internet", something that has no government or corporate interference. I do know that there are some groups working on this, but it really needs support from the general public.

  3. I would love an update when this guy gets hacked and his dirty laundry is aired.

  4. As an American, I am outraged that a foreign government would dare to intercept my communications.

  5. ... which is entirely compatible with my point. There is an implicit global consensus that these things are bad. And just like worse things, like torturing or even murdering your own citizens, they are often done anyway by corrupt and power-hungry politicians, or because someone thinks it's a "necessary evil". Outside of the English-speaking world, though, it is never defended as something that is entirely OK to do because "everybody else does it".

    This kind of justification makes it infinitely more dangerous and scary. I prefer a thief who says "I know stealing is bad, but my family has to eat" over one who says "It's a dog-eat-dog world, everyone else would steal, too, if they were strong enough". The former might actually stop stealing once his family is fed.

    Additionally, I'd venture that the named countries do not have any desire to extend their intelligence gathering capabilities to private citizens outside their territories, so currently, the Iranian government is the Iranians' problem, while the Five Eyes governments are everybody's.

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