Police get new powers to infiltrate dark web

Police will have greater powers to infiltrate the dark web to crack down on paedophiles and criminals after a new law passed giving them amped-up surveillance capabilities online.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said the increasing size and complexity of online criminal networks necessitated greater power being given to authorities.

“The increasing use of the dark web and anonymising technologies has significantly degraded agencies’ abilities to identify and disrupt serious crime occurring online,” she told the Senate on Wednesday.

The opposition agreed, stressing the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) were currently ill-equipped to fight serious online crime.

“As the AFP Commissioner told the committee during our hearings: it’s like fighting crime with one hand tied behind your back,” Labor Senator Kristina Keneally said.

The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2021 was passed through both houses on Wednesday meaning the AFP and ACICI will have three significant new powers online.

These include being able to delete data on the dark web to prevent child abuse material being shared and also being able to access or take control of a person’s online account to gather evidence.

Ms Cash told the Senate that online child exploitation material was the reason the new powers were needed.

“Child exploitation material is an absolute disgrace,” she said.

“That is what we are looking at to frustrate the commission of serious offences online.”

But while the major parties were in resounding support of the bill, the crossbench expressed concerns that it posed significant human rights issues.

“This bill would allow spy agencies to modify, add, copy or delete your data with a data disruption warrant while also collecting intelligence on your online activities with a network activity warrant,” Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe said.

“This bill highlights previous failures in Australian law, which do not afford innocent parties enough protection from being mistakenly targeted by increased police powers,” One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts said.

The Law Council of Australia also expressed significant concerns about the bill, stating the warrants had the potential to cause “significant loss, damage or disruption to lawful computer users who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.”

Originally published as Police get new powers to infiltrate dark web

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