The Australian Govt's rush to snoop

The Australian Govt's rush to snoop

Summary: The government wants to give access to more telecommunications data to assist with law enforcement. It sounds like an infringement on civil liberties. Will it be able to push it through?


To the Australian Government's credit, it has called for public submissions and an inquiry before implementing changes to existing national security legislation. Through that process, it has found few supporters, except for the government authorities seeking more powers through the changes.

Others, including Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and Simon Frew from the Pirate Party, have deep concerns about the extent of this review, which discusses keeping telecommunications data for two years, offering access to broader sets of data from a single warrant, allowing ministerial approval for investigations and making it an offence for failing to assist in the decryption of communications.

Despite the extent of the proposed changes, there's a fair chance most of it will soon be passed as legislation. Dr Gavin Smith, a senior lecturer in Sociology at the Australian National University in Canberra, believes that people accept surveillance as an everyday aspect of their lives.

Just as we give away more of ourselves to Facebook, perhaps we'll happily succumb to more snooping by authorities. In fact, the Australian Tax Office wants the powers to extend further than the inquiry suggests — two years of historic data isn't enough to satisfy their thirst for information.

I wonder what George Orwell would make of it all? What do you think? Call the Twisted Wire feedback line on +612 9304 5198 and leave a message.

Running time: 29 minutes, 38 seconds.


Topics: Government, Government AU, Legal, Privacy, Security, Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Government snooping or government being allowed to govern

    I am personally very much in the camp of allowing our government to have the rights and means of finding out the facts in cases where there is a reason to suspect criminal activity. Why bother with a government if we won't help it govern? This is not a game like cricket where we might not want technological intervention to facilitate fair decision making because we love the human unpredictability of it, in government we ultimately want the right decisions to be made. If we don't want certain activities to be investigated we should decriminalise them but for the ones we want to be defined as criminal we might as well do our best to detect them when they happen. I honestly don't think there are many people in the government that 'snoop' just for the purposes of being nosey. They've got much more important jobs to be getting on with on behalf of our country, lets give them (ourselves) more credit than that. PS I am not a public servant and openly admit there are many I'm not particularly fond of but I don't think theres much point in cutting their legs off. Government is an 'us', not a 'them'.
  • Hello open slather snooping

    Re: RichSmart,

    That's all well & good in a Utopia where all those public servants weren't open to bribery or corruption.
    But unfortunately we live in the real world where every byte of stored data is up for grabs to anyone at the right price.
  • Re: grump3

    Any such public servants that do indulge in those practices would then be more easily detectable if we allow such transparency of telecommunciations data wouldn't they? If we don't permit it, it increases their chances of getting away with corruption. I honestly do hear your points and believe they are entirely valid - I just think the people with intent or susceptibility to corrupt and deceive generally don't go into government, they go into the private or criminal sectors. Those that go into public service in general have a genuine interest in public service (not a hard and fast rule I'll concede) so if we have any faith in humanity, we have to try to build these trust models to operate, not spend time encumbering them or breaking them down. I fully expect the things you fear to happen sporadically but I think those drawbacks will be outweighed by the benefits we realise in an increased rate in the prevention and detection of crime.
  • its not the data its the data snoopers capacity!

    If the DEA can't handle analysing 2tb of data, and if their entire storage capacity is actually 40tb, how will our spooks handle millions of the same? How many thousands of analysts and secure storage guardians (at your friendly isps warehouse, no less) will come on board to process this?

    Good luck with that kiddos...
  • Big Brothers, Government and Enterprise, No Point

    I see big brother in history, and some literature about the future, it is like a bower constrictor. Unless some harm is done to someone, in contact or financial transaction, what is the point of recording data details? Will they place something like internet traffic fines? Or take hundreds and hundreds of persons to court and prison?

    Will there be a style or taste counsel? What good is it if Google gets more power over the user? To publish the trail of searches? And posts? Who will own Google in the future?

    In China they cannot look up youtube or Christian sites. Europe is also closing up Christian liberties and others.

    I find the USA and its business too right wing, big brother.

    Should we stop the current policy in government of sometimes private hearings, what is the alternative and its' merits? I think what we have already is a fair balance, well sort of. I don't like being monitored, my phone calls, emails, location.

    Unless there is something I don't know, with dangerous persons, real harm intended, like more than individual straying that surely doesn't lead to any harm done, I am not for it.

    If so, then surely there should be the return of the vice squad, maybe individual liquor licensing... banning cigarettes.

    Is there value in curious people or framed people or people with bad taste or other more serious vices being maybe named and shamed, rejected. Society has effect or needs warning? I recall an Irish priest used purity software on his computer and was surprised to find pornography on his computer. I looked up a government website and some hacker had left it infected so it popped up a porn page.

    Either more or less. Government filters like in China?

    I want less big brother and material money, restrictions on monitoring.
  • At What Cost?

    Is the government going to fund the ISPs to set up the data warehousing and security measures necessary to support all this retained data in a secure manner?


    The ISPs will end up wearing the costs which means you and I pay through massive increases in the cost of internet access.

    Secondly, these draconian measures are not just an Orwellian nightmare, they represent the beginning of the Rise of The Machines.

    John Connor, where are you?
    • Wondering on cost..

      Would be interesting to get numbers on exactly how much money the typical ISP would need to setup a data warehouse capable of this.