[LINK] ISPs force rewrite of law
brd at iimetro.com.au
Tue Sep 29 09:12:47 AEST 2009
ISPs force rewrite of law
September 29, 2009
Internet lobbyists have forestalled a law that could turn internet
service providers into online sheriffs.
The federal government has substantially rewritten a bill intended to
protect computer networks before its tabling in parliament by
Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
Electronic Frontiers Australia spokesman Geordie Guy said it was unclear
if the draft Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill
was an "attempt to sneak through" a wholesale expansion of intercepts of
private emails and file-sharing or merely a badly drafted bill.
"There was an incredibly short two-week consultation period but it only
takes one of our members to notice what is going on and wave the flag,"
he said. "The bill is now significantly less broad, and its scope is
essentially limited to those (monitoring) government agency networks."
The Attorney-General's Department said the aim was to legally protect
network administrators who may "inadvertently breach the TIA Act" when
intercepting private communications in security defence activities.
Government employees have been protected by an exemption due to end on
December 13, and the draft bill suggested extending that protection to
all persons "lawfully engaged" in operating networks, such as businesses
Mr Guy said EFA's main concerns involved the vague phrase "appropriate
purposes" -- "and who determines what's appropriate and why" -- and the
potential use of intercepted communications "for disciplinary purposes".
"The draft left it open for police to approach anybody in a position of
authority in any organisation and require them to wholesale hand over
information under an organisation's acceptable use provisions," he said.
Internet Industry Association spokesman John Hilvert was also pleased by
the changes, saying the original bill suggested "a new discretionary
ability for ISPs" that conflicted with their obligations under privacy
laws and the act generally.
"There's a tendency to overlook the fact that an ISP's prime function is
as a conduit," Mr Hilvert said. "Most users assume that their content
will be absolutely confidential and is not to be shared unless there is
a magistrate's ruling that material can be viewed by an authorised
person, such as a policeman.
"So most assume they will only be contacted by their ISP if there's
something affecting the network -- not because there's potentially some
content that may breach copyright, for instance. That's not a crime,
that's an infringement."
Mr Hilvert said there was a risk ISPs would have been forced to become
"deputy sheriffs for almost everyone" under the proposed provisions.
Mr McClelland has also introduced an amendment to the Serious and
Organised Crime Act that gives police agencies greater powers to search
and seize data from electronic equipment, no matter where it is held on
a system, and to compel a person to provide access to the data.
"These powers, currently only available when the computer is on the
warrant premises, will assist officers in overcoming challenges posed by
technological developments such as encryption," Mr McClelland said.
Both bills have been referred to the Senate Legal Committee for public
Meanwhile, the Rudd government is still considering its position on the
Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime nearly 18 months after
signalling it was ready to start talks on the widely accepted global
An Attorney-General's Department spokesman said it was necessary to
ensure that it was in Australia's "best interests to comply" with the
convention, and consistent with domestic law.
"The fact Australia is not a signatory is not an impediment to the
investigation of cybercrime across borders," he said.
"Alternative avenues exist for law enforcement to co-operate with their
international counterparts, including under mutual assistance arrangements."
brd at iimetro.com.au
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