Legislation passed in Federal Parliament on 25 August will significantly boost the capacity of Australia’s law-enforcement agencies to identify and disrupt serious criminal activity occurring online.
This is according to home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, who said the changes would ensure law enforcement had the tools required to keep pace with technology and protect the community.
The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 introduces three new powers for the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.
Authorities may take control of online accounts
It enables authorities to modify and delete data to frustrate offending, collect intelligence on criminal networks, and take control of alleged offenders’ online accounts.
“The arrest of more than 290 people as part of Operation Ironside earlier this year confirmed the persistent and ever-evolving threat of transnational, serious and organised crime – and the reliance of these networks on the dark web and anonymising technology to conceal their offending,” Andrews said.
“In Operation Ironside, ingenuity and world-class capability gave our law enforcement an edge. This Bill is just one more step the Government is taking to ensure our agencies maintain that edge.
“Under our changes the AFP will have more tools to pursue organised crime gangs to keep drugs off our street and out of our community, and those who commit the most heinous crimes against children.”
Amendment has three prongs to fight online crime
According to the Federal Government, so-called ‘network activity warrants’will enable the AFP and the ACIC to collect intelligence on the most harmful criminal networks operating online.
Similarly, ‘data disruption warrants’ will allow the AFP and the ACIC to disrupt serious criminality online by authorising them to modify data belonging to individuals suspected of criminal activity. This in an effort to frustrate the commission of serious offences such as the distribution of child-exploitation material.
The third pillar of the new legislation is an ‘account takeover power’, enabling the law-enforcement bodies to take control of a person’s online account for the purposes of gathering evidence about criminal activity, to be used in conjunction with other investigatory powers. Currently, agencies rely on a person consenting to the takeover of their account.
The minister said the powers are to be overseen by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to ensure agency use of these powers is appropriate.