Australians step closer to routine surveillance

Australian government votes in favour of snoop powers

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) now has the power to routinely access and alter data on private computer systems after a bill was passed by the Australian parliament Friday.

The ASIO Amendment Bill 1999 has come under fierce criticism from civil liberties organisations and politicians. The success of the new Bill is likely to impact upon decisions made by other government regarding computer surveillance. British experts have already expressed fears that government snooping is likely to increase.

This is the first major change to the 1979 ASIO Bill and gives the Australian authorities the power to remotely access personal computers as well as powers that allow data to be manipulated in order to breach defences.

Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja told the Australian press that not enough attention has been paid to human rights and privacy issues in the formulation of the Bill: "The Government has almost found quite a convenient excuse for significant new excursions into personal surveillance. These range from proposals to legitimately hack computers through to a comprehensive national genetic fingerprinting system."

They can see you... Read about how and why in Surveillance , a ZDNet News Special