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)