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Greens Senator speaks against Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007: “Invasion of privacy”

Posted by gasweek on 12 October, 2007

Senator Kerry Nettle, Greens Party, speaking in the Federal Senate on 20 September 2007 concerning the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 described the intrusive nature of the proposed legislation.

Tracking Internet browsing particularly intrusive: Nettle said that allowing police or the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to track the movement of a person or check what websites they had visited for one or three months was as much an intrusion on their privacy as listening to a person’s phone calls. She said tracking Internet browsing was particularly intrusive. Nettle noted that the Electronic Frontiers Foundation had said in their submission to the Senate inquiry on the bill that: “Surveillance of web browsing activities is akin to filming individuals’ activities in a manner that records every item they purchase in shops, every film they see at the cinema or hire or buy, every book and magazine they glance through and/or purchase or take out on loan from a library and so on. Furthermore, unlike ‘telecommunications data’ about telephone calls and email messages, the address of a web page often, of itself, provides information about the content or substance of the communication and web page addresses can be used to obtain access to the content that was communicated.”

Mobile phone tracking technolgies to improve: Tracking of mobile phones could become more intrusive over time, as the Electronic Frontiers Foundation had also pointed out. They had said new technologies, such as Assisted Global Positioning Systems, reportedly expected to be introduced in Australia by some carriers in 2007 or 2008, would greatly improve the accuracy of mobile phone location information. Access to ‘prospective’ location information enabled not only identifying or tracking locations but also potentially real world, real time surveillance of a tracked individual’s activities.

A warrant should be necessary: Nettle stated that the Greens believed the police and ASIO should have to get a warrant to track and tap people’s mobile phones or web browsing and said the Law Council of Australia shared their concerns. The Law Council had said in its submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee: “Given the invasion of privacy it represents, the Law Council believes that criminal law-enforcement agencies should require a warrant in order to access prospective telecommunications data and thus use a person’s mobile phone as a tracking device. The Law Council recognises that under Section 39 of the Surveillance Devices Act 2004, law enforcement officers are already able to use a tracking device without a warrant in the investigation of a federal offence which carries a maximum penalty of at least three years. This is provided that written permission is received from an ‘appropriate authorising officer’ and installation and retrieval of the device does not require entry onto premises without permission or interference with the interior of a vehicle without permission. Nonetheless, the Law Council believes that the ease with which telecommunications data may be used to track a person, as compared to the difficult of secretly affixing a physical tracking device to a person or thing, renders proposed section 180 far more amenable to misuse or overuse by law enforcement agencies than existing provisions in the Surveillance Devices Act 2004. It is on that basis that the Law Council believes that access to prospective telecommunications data should require a warrant.”

Telecommunications companies and ISPs concerned: Nettle said that there were other aspects of the bill that deserved attention and that increasingly telecommunication companies and Internet service providers were concerned about the burdens and obligations placed on them by national security laws and agencies.

Reference: Kerry Nettle, Senator for New South Wales, Australian Greens Party, Senate Hansard, Commonwealth of Australia, 20 September 2007.

Erisk Net, 7/10/2007


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