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Proposed Laws to Increase Police Powers Online

In December last year, a new bill was brought before Parliament to broaden law enforcement powers online. Following an increase in child abuse material downloaded on the dark web,...

Justin Wong

In December last year, a new bill was brought before Parliament to broaden law enforcement powers online. Following an increase in child abuse material downloaded on the dark web, Peter Dutton introduced the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 (Cth). It proposes to give Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) greater powers through three new warrants:

Account takeover warrants

As the name suggests, this type of warrant will allow the police or the ACIC to covertly take over an online account. The police cannot impersonate the account holder under this warrant but they can lock the account holder from using that account.

Network activity warrants

This warrant is intended for intelligence gathering and would allow police or the ACIC to gain access to a device or network suspected of criminal activity. This warrant alone, however, can only be used to obtain data for intelligence and cannot be used as evidence in criminal proceedings.

Data disruptions warrants

This warrant gives police or the ACIC the powers to ‘add, copy, delete or alter data….to frustrate the commission of an offence.

A magistrate or AAT member can only grant these warrants in circumstances where:

  1. there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a serious online crime is likely to be committed, and
  2. that taking control of the accounts, access, or disruption to data will assist in the investigation or prevention of that crime.

The explanatory memorandum circulated in Parliament flags a number of human rights implications. Specifically, in relation to the protection against arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy and the right to freedom of expression, as contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Bill is still currently undergoing review by a Parliamentary Joint Committee in the House of Representatives.

For more information on online offences, check out our page on using a carriage service to harass or menace.

Photo By Sora Shimazaki