The Australian Government is following the Totalitarian footsteps of other western countries like the US and Britain in its quest to sniff every packet of data Australians send on the internet
Back at the end of September, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used recent terrorist threats as the backdrop of a dire warning to Australians that
“for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift. There may be more restrictions on some, so that there can be more protection for others.”
This warning came as two of a series of three bills effecting that erosion of freedoms made their way through Australia's Federal Parliament. These were the second reading of a National Security Amendment Bill which grants new surveillance powers to Australia's spy agency, ASIO, and the first reading of a Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill that outlaws speech seen as “advocating terrorism”. A third bill on mandatory data retention is expected to be introduced by the end of the year.
All three bills are sinister. The National Security Amendment Bill will in effect allow law enforcement agencies to surveil the entire Internet with a single warrant, and jail journalists and whistleblowers. The mandatory data retention bill, which will be introduced into the federal parliament during the week of 27 October, is also a fun one. Under the flimsy pretext that this measure is urgently needed to fight terrorism (though actually its scope will be far broader), the bill, if passed, will require Australian Internet providers to scoop up highly personal information about their customers as they use the Internet, and to store it for two years for law enforcement agencies to access.
What you searched for before emailing your lawyer. Who you Skyped with afterwards. Who they have Skyped with. Where you were when chatting with your partner last night. The websites you visit during your lunch break. These are just a few examples of the kind of personal information that Australian government agencies will have at their fingertips under this Orwellian law.
Australians are fighting back
Australians have not taken this threat lying down. On 6 October a grassroots website called Stop the Spies was launched to expose this threat and to mobilize ordinary Internet users to stop it.
“The Australian government is on the verge of ordering your ISP to track and record your movements online. These plans are made on the pretext of fighting terrorism, but they really belong in a police state. Mandatory data retention policies treat every single citizen as a suspect worthy of constant intrusive surveillance”.
The Australians are referring to Europe as the voice of wisdom in their fight. The Court of Justice of the European Union this year ruled a similar European data retention mandate as illegal, being "an interference with the fundamental rights of practically the entire European population." The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also recently criticized mandatory data retention rules as being neither necessary nor proportionate.
And we skeptics think that even if not passed, this bill and its relatives will probably find another way to be practiced. Call us pessimists but we are witnessing a global surveillance trend. We advise our internet brothers and sisters in the land of down under, not to leave it only for trusting the government, but to find ways protecting themselves using tools like our very own Zenamte browser plugin and Zenmate mobile. It all comes down to the question:
Do you really trust your law enforcement agencies to do the right thing?