Down Under-surveillance: Australian govt seeks confidential online data

Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
Internet users in Australia may be forced to share every aspect of their online lives with the government. If passed into law, a new security measure would require service providers to retain customers’ phone and internet data online for two years.

­A paper released by the Attorney-General’s Department shows that if passed, the law would require Australians to hand over their computer passwords to authorities.

Everything from networking sites to emails would be stored, and intelligence agencies would be given increased access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The paper was written for a parliamentary joint committee which is considering ways to reform the country’s national security legislation.

Another proposal under consideration is whether to allow the country’s foreign intelligence services to monitor citizens overseas, if an officer from the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) is not available.

Until now, ASIO has been the only agency allowed to collect data on Australian citizens.

The Federal government has defended the need for intelligence agencies to have access to internet and phone records. However, not everyone agrees with the plans laid out in the document.

“I think it's unjustified. Australians should have a right to privacy online,” Greens party senator Scott Ludlam told ABC.

If the measures pass, it will be the greatest expansion of Australia’s security laws since 2001, when the country implemented strict security measures following the 9/11 attacks.

The government claims the proposals are important to maintain security, but says it wants citizens to be able to air their opinions on the subject.

“We must stay one step ahead of terrorists and organized criminals who threaten our national security, said Attorney-General Nicola Roxon in a statement.

Submissions into the inquiry are due by August 6. The committee intends to hold a series of public and closed hearings.