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Australia Privacy Your Rights Online

Creeping Government Surveillance Now Without Warrants 78

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the no-privacy-down-under dept.
CuteSteveJobs writes "The Age reports on creeping Australian government surveillance, beginning with the first operation launched on a baseless rumor. Six decades later the still-unaware victim read five months of transcripts with deep distress. Two decades ago few Australians would have consented to carrying a government-accessible tracking device, but phone and tablet data accessible without a warrant includes historic and real-time location data. In 2010-2011 there were 250,000 warrantless accesses by Federal agencies including ASIO, AFP, the Tax Office, Defence, Immigration, Citizenship, Health, Ageing, and Medicare. This is 18 times the rate of similar requests in the U.S."
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Creeping Government Surveillance Now Without Warrants

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  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @10:06PM (#41459593) Homepage Journal

    I seriously doubt we're actually being snooped on any less. When the watching is constant by certain agencies it no longer shows up as a separate look.

    • by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @10:39PM (#41459809)

      I seriously doubt we're actually being snooped on any less. When the watching is constant by certain agencies it no longer shows up as a separate look.

      Nope, this is a standard media beat up of the current govt. Not based in reality, uses vauge statistics in deliberately misleading manner.

      Technically, when a car dealer checks my credit file when I apply for finance, they are performing a warrentless check of private data... despite the fact I've given them permission. I love the fact the Age does not differentiate between

      ASIO, AFP, Defence,

      and

      the Tax Office, Immigration, Citizenship, Health, Ageing, and Medicare.

      A hell of a lot of those checks will be done by the ATO (Australian Tax Office) as investigations against tax cheats. Your bank records are protected by law.

      But by all means, let the Australia bashing continue.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @11:02PM (#41459947)

        But by all means, let the Australia bashing continue.

        Well, as long as I have permission... Damn crazy Vegemite eatining criminals always tryin to tie me kangaroo down, mate!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gnoshi (314933)

        Technically, when a car dealer checks my credit file when I apply for finance, they are performing a warrentless check of private data... despite the fact I've given them permission.

        Certainly, but I'm pretty sure that isn't going to count in the above lists (not being ASIO, the ATO, or any of the others) so that isn't really relevant.

        I love the fact the Age does not differentiate between

        ASIO, AFP, Defence,

        and

        the Tax Office, Immigration, Citizenship, Health, Ageing, and Medicare.

        You know, I think that whichever of those agencies is accessing my phone, internet, or location records, it is not innocuous. (Note, from the article it is hard to make out who is obtaining what data).

        Frankly, I think that the law should be such that all of this data is not available without a warrant, and that those organisations should be forced to put f

        • When you have all communications running through your special rooms at all the telco's and ISP's you don't need to ask.
        • by mjwx (966435)

          Frankly, I think that the law should be such that all of this data is not available without a warrant, and that those organisations should be forced to put forward a good case for why it is otherwise. Furthermore, I think that if this data is accessed (or a wiretap is performed) then after a period of time (3 months? 6 maybe?) the relevant agency should be required to notify me that the data was accessed, unless either the investigation is ongoing, or they are in the process of pressing charges. If my call listing is accessed, and no action against me follows, then why shouldn't I know it was accessed?

          I agree with you about the warrant part. But the requirement to notify you will inhibit law enforcement. Cases against bikies have evidence collection phases that stretch into years, literally millions of lines of transcribed conversation. Of course the defense gets access to all of this prior to the case, if you get charged, you and your counsel have a right to see the evidence arrayed against you.

          But yes, what data is collected should be available by an FOI request.

          • by gnoshi (314933)

            But the requirement to notify you will inhibit law enforcement. Cases against bikies have evidence collection phases that stretch into years, literally millions of lines of transcribed conversation.

            And think you and I actually think the same on this: I agree that as long as investigation is still underway, it is reasonable to delay notification - it may be that this should requires approval from a judge every six months, but I think that would be manageable.

            Really, the point of requiring notification would be to 'encourage' appropriate use of this kind of data access. If people who are engaged in perfectly acceptable activities (like organising political protests, or just living their lives) started r

            • by mjwx (966435)

              Really, the point of requiring notification would be to 'encourage' appropriate use of this kind of data access. If people who are engaged in perfectly acceptable activities (like organising political protests, or just living their lives) started receiving notifications you can be certain attention would be directed to the issue quickly.

              I agree but it will create another overhead in the public service. Hell, they'll create an entire department for this kind of oversight, I've worked in the Australian Public Service.

        • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @12:46AM (#41460445) Journal

          ... those organisations should be forced to put forward a good case for why it is otherwise.

          Context is everything...
          Case 1. A woman went missing here in Melbourne on the weekend, cops had a great deal of information on her very quickly simply by asking, for a start they know she hasn't used her bank accounts or her mobile phone since she dissappeared, they also know from public CCTV footage that she got within 450 meters of her home before dissapearing, and that's only the evidence they are telling us about, they probably know quite a bit more.

          Now lets change the context...
          Case 2. There is a guy who is currently on terrorist charges because he was caught downloding "terrorist documents", ironically newspapers and blogs have condemend him by reprinting the worst bits of those documents, "in the public interest" of course. They also seem to think that making bombs with household chemicals is some sort of classified information and not just simple HS chemistry.

          Believe it or not, the vast majority of cases that find their way into court are much closer to case 1 than they are to case 2.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Technically, when a car dealer checks my credit file when I apply for finance, they are performing a warrentless check of private data... despite the fact I've given them permission.

        Last I checked, a car dealer was a private entity. In the US (which I gather is where you reside), the rules for private entities is vastly different from that of public ones. But even if the car dealer was somehow a law enforcement agency, one doesn't need a warrant when the subject consents to the search. I doubt either would be considered a warrentless search.

        A hell of a lot of those checks will be done by the ATO (Australian Tax Office) as investigations against tax cheats. Your bank records are protected by law.

        Not all that protected in Australia, if your assertion is correct.

        • In Australia, car dealers use credit rating agencies, they do not have access to your personal details. The agency gives you a rating depending on your track record of paying off previous debts. If you don't like the rating you can force the agency to give you the information they are using for their rating and also force them to correct any errors.
          • by khallow (566160)

            The agency gives you a rating depending on your track record of paying off previous debts.

            The rating is a personal detail. It is disingenuous to compare Australian government warrantless searches to private US credit ratings even if Australian credit rating agencies release somewhat less information about you.

      • by rusty (3244)

        Nope, this is a standard media beat up of the current govt. Not based in reality, uses vauge statistics in deliberately misleading manner.

        Um, no, the 250,000 requests per year are government warrantless data requests; these include call data (who called whom, not contents), location data, and request header data (eg http, email: interestingly, I've not been able to find out which headers are included: links anyone?)

        Obviously with this number of requests going on, the process isn't being vetted very well if at all. Certainly there aren't that many people in Australia under reasonable suspicion of criminal behaviour, so it's deeply concern

      • by pecosdave (536896) *

        Current government?

        I'm pointing back to at least FDR, probably Taft

    • Maybe there are only so many bad guys to go around... and they are not so good at math.

      If "the terrorists" send 50 to the USA and 50 to Australia, then the 18x ratio is just about right.

      Prolly not, but just sayin...
    • Have mandatory notification 60 days after they access your data, unless they get a court order blocking it. The random fishing expeditions get embarrassing, the actual criminal investigations are unaffected.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Make the law require the party (e.g. phone company) notify the user.

        So
        1st Tier - you are notified immediately, the government doesn't request secrecy
        2nd Tier - you are notified after 60 days, the govt requests secrecy but doesn't follow it with any court action to suppress for a fixed time.
        3rd Tier - the suppression expires, or the case goes to court.

        If THEY have nothing to hide, then there is nothing to fear from the release. After all YOU have done nothing wrong, and they are not prepared to even make a c

    • I really wiish somebody who actually lives in Australia would comment on this story. A lot of what makes Aussies different is that they have a lot of wilderness left down there. Their approach to things is a lot different then uptight, whiny Americans.

  • One network (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ugen (93902) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @10:10PM (#41459621)

    Conveniently, they are building out a single universal high speed network - so surveillance would be a lot easier. No more pesky multiple providers to monitor, multiple data centers to maintain, disparate protocols to support.
    Sounds like Woz found a perfect place to move to. (Of course he could not just move to a house with broadband in US, that would..what, make sense? :) )

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      I think the Woz's moving was more of a political statement then an attempt to get broadband. He has enough money and political capitol that he can run fiber to the house he is in already if he wanted to.

      You may be right though, he might not have thought it through enough.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How did this get modded up? The NBN is strictly a Layer 2 network. One of the main points of the exercise was to get rid of a vertically integrated monopoly. Surveillance will be just as difficult (or easy) as it was beforehand.

  • by oldhack (1037484) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @10:19PM (#41459665)

    This is how the West is receding from the forefront of the human history and affairs of the world, through internal rot.

    Well, I suppose we had a good run.

    • by Kreigaffe (765218)

      Right. I'll start believing that as soon as the also-rans start having less totalitarian regimes.

      The West isn't receding from anything. The FOREFRONT is receding. The West is still ahead. Unless you somehow believe that China or Brasil or who the fuck ever else is LESS invasive and MORE respectful of human rights. Which I mean, my man, if that's what you think more power to you, feel free to move there and experience for yourself how much better life is in the West.

      • by oldhack (1037484)

        Right, "we are still not as bad as those other guys" argument. Gives you a nice warm feeling inside, doesn't it, "we still suck less than them other guys".

        It's not where you are, it's which direction you're going.

        • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @01:11AM (#41460565)

          Nope. No no no, nope. Don't even try to fucking backpedal. You're the one that brought the rest of the world into the race in comparison to the West, NOT me.

          You said the West was receding from the forefront of human history and affairs of the world.

          The forefront HAS TO BE OCCUPIED. There has to be someone or something there.

          If it's not the West, then I ask you who? Who? Name any group of nations excluding any Western nation that would be supplanting the West as leading the forefront of human history and affairs of the world?

          Yes, this is a big problem. Yes, this is bad. Yes, this shouldn't be happening.

          Point me to the places that are overtaking the West with regards to human rights. Go ahead and try. PROTIP: Nowhere that isn't Western is even trying to make any improvements.

        • You can't measure direction from position, you need a previous position. So go back 50yrs, unless you have some teary eyed nostalgia for those days, it is unquestionably heading in the right direction concerning the rights of individuals in western nations. Oh, and when the only alternative on offer is "them other guys" then "we suck less" is a perfectly valid argument.
    • OldHack? - How old? - Seems to me that the civil rights movement is a pre-historic era in your book, and "the draft" is something you get when you leave a door open.
  • won't move to Aus after all
  • Hence the grassroots reaction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CryptoParty [wikipedia.org]

  • Ageing.../twitch

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @11:13PM (#41460017) Homepage Journal
    They're just 18 times worse about getting caught at it.

    Besides, Aussies are FUN to spy on. It's the accent. I'm spying on like, three, at this very moment.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The whole country was founded as a prison to get rid of undesirables from England. You really can't expect too much privacy or liberty under those circumstances now can you...
    • by evanism (600676) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @11:30PM (#41460079) Journal

      Plus we are now ruled by card carrying hard line anti business communists. Throw in a few strong arm head kicking unionists and the mix is about right.

    • Get real... These folks get lost all the time. They get lost in the wildernss so much they have an expression in order to explain that they are lost. It's called "gone walkabout." The government is just trying to be able to find people under those circumstances, has nothing to do with Civil liberties or criminality or terrorism! Bloomin, bloody, Yanks and their penny-ante idea of freedom. Have a drink, mate.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Australia gave up its guns a long time ago..

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @01:36AM (#41460685) Homepage

    I cannot think of another "Western" nation that is slipping into oppression faster or further than Australia. Not even Nanny Brussels is dragging Europe down at this rate. Internets use, surveillance, road traffic, hobbies, speech, it's just turn after turn of the prohibition thumbscrews on the left hand and the mandating screws on the right.

    What up, Oz? When are you going to have enough laws to keep every child and kitten safe, all the time, forever?

    • by dkf (304284)

      Continental drift.

    • Ehh. That's the thing, maybe the Aussies really are that laid back about things? When 75% of your population can decide to disappear into poorly charted wilderness at their own discretion how much "control" does a government really have? Down under is a big place. Think 1,000,000 person version of "Burning Man." Hey!

  • by Genda (560240) <mariet.got@net> on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @01:54AM (#41460791) Journal

    Can you see it yet, up ahead there just beyond the curve? Every infant will be implanted with a technology. It will connect to the brains neural network linking the new person to infinite digital possibilities and it will have amazing abilities. It will help a child learn. It will record a person's life in exquisite detail. It will allow people to share thoughts, experiences, work and collaborate in ways in which we now have no comprehension. The down side is that uninvited others will hear every thought you ever have. No action will go unrecorded. Your position, intention, aspirations and inclinations will all be a matter of public record and nothing you can do, will ever buy you even a moment of privacy. I call this future the "Hotel California" because it may be heaven and could be hell, and no matter how you check out, odds are you'll never leave.

    • by siddesu (698447)

      Yep. I even think read about it in a book a long time ago. The title was "Foundation and Earth", I believe. It wasn't all that new or different from the best Soviet utopian sci-fi from the late 50s. I'm almost certain someone is already writing another one with the same concept and a different, silicon-based plot device -- and calling it the iThink chip.

      The social organization is very similar, what is different is the means the different authors come to it.

  • Kind of ironic isnt it?

    Australians hails from a prison colony, 165.000+ convicts where sent to Australia because the British prison facilities was overburdened. ...and now they themselves become the supressors, where law and monitoring ever citizen becomes the daily agenda. Sends a cold shiver down my spine, and to think that I actually considered moving there one day, I guess I dodged a bullet there.

  • ... now that they've allowed the State to take their only means of changing their tyrannical government.

    I still can't figure out why Aussies were falling all over themselves to give up their guns, knowing what the reasons were for them being taken.

    • ooh.. actually you can't change government with guns anymore. They'll lock your bank accounts, publish your pornographic e-mail, repo your property and all with the click of a mouse button. "One click oppression."

      "In the 21st century, Losers have guns, winners have an air force."

  • "Hey Mate.. thas not a warrant. THIS is a warrant"

    Australian for warrant..

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