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Drive to Expand Australian Cyber Spy Powers

Australia’s military cyber spy agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), could soon be receiving radical new espionage powers to monitor Australian citizens for the first time. If approved, the ASD may be able to secretly access the digital information of Australians including emails, health data, bank records, and text messages.

The Sunday Telegraph revealed a series of top secret letters exchanged between the heads of the Department of Home Affairs and Department of Defence discussing the plan to potentially allow government hackers to “proactively disrupt and covertly remove” onshore cyber threats by “hacking into our critical infrastructure.”

Currently, only ASIO and the Australian Federal Police have the powers to investigate Australians and they require a warrant to do so. Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said that the proposed expansion was in response to the increasing sophistication of transnational criminal activity.

The proposed changes could grant the ASD powers to compel Australian companies and government agencies to hand over data or security information when requested. The expansion has been justified on the basis that traditional law enforcement lacks the technical capacity to fully identify, detect and disrupt systemic transnational organised crime involving Australian citizens, and often relies on foreign law enforcement partners.

There is no need to panic just yet however, with Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop stating that there are no plans for the Government to expand the powers of the ASD as the laws already in place can target transnational crime while maintaining Australian’s privacy.

Copyright 2019 K & L Gates

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About this Author

Warwick Andersen Technology Lawyer KL Gates
Attorney

Mr. Andersen is a senior corporate lawyer with a focus on commercial, technology and sourcing projects. He has advised on large scale outsourcing projects, technology agreements for both vendors and customers, corporate support, privacy and telecommunications regulatory work. He has acted for government departments, large listed companies, telecommunications companies and technology suppliers.

+61-2-9513-2508
Rob Pulham, KL Gates, Corporate technology requirements lawyer, contracts drafting attorney
Senior Associate

Mr. Pulham is a corporate and commercial lawyer. His practice includes advising clients in managing their technology requirements and contracts (including drafting, review and negotiation of contracts for the provision of technology products and services), providing advice regarding privacy, data protection and copyright law, marketing and advertising, website content and general commercial intellectual property advice.

Mr. Pulham's experience includes having worked for leading technology suppliers, large Australian financial institutions, and food and beverage manufacturers, as well as Australian and Victorian government agencies.

61-3-9640-4414