- Parliament has passed laws that allow the Australian
Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to tap into and alter data on
private computer systems.
- The ASIO Amendment Bill 1999 passed the Senate yesterday,
giving federal authorities the power to tap into private computer systems
for surveillance purposes. This is the first time in 13 years a major change
has been made to the ASIO Act 1979.
- While the legislation gained bipartisan support, some
members expressed concern that bill was rushed through Parliament. Senator
Bolkus noted yesterday that the Senate had waited four or five months to
debate the bill. "We could have spent more time in the analysis period,"
he said in Parliament.
- Labor has also expressed concern that the law allows
ASIO to add, delete or alter data on remote computers. An amendment has
subsequently been made that says data can only be altered if it is "necessary"
to obtain access to data.
- The change hasn't appeased the Democrats, who claim that
the new law is a serious breach of Australians' privacy. Deputy leader
Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said that the laws could be intentionally
misused to plant evidence. "The government has found quite a convenient
excuse for significant new excursions into personal surveillance,"
- Privacy groups are angry that the bill gives ASIO the
power to tap into private computer systems. Consumer group Financial Services
Consumer Policy Centre has previously called on the Senate to reject the
bill, claiming it contains "serious flaws".