Citizens, Not Suspects campaign

6 Oct 2015

The Citizens, Not Suspects campaign aims to fight the proposals of mandatory data retention legislation in Australia.

On 13th October 2015, the mandatory data retention legislation comes into force in Australia, but the implementation process is in disarray. As the next election approaches we need to keep the pressure on to have this legislation reviewed.

The government’s proposed extensions to National Security powers pose serious threats to the security, privacy and freedom of all Australians.

Among these proposals are: mandatory retention for two years of data relating to the internet and telecommunications activity of all Australians. This data could include records of your phone calls and texts, your location (if you use a mobile phone) and who you send emails to and who you receive them from.

As Sir Tim Berners-Lee said when he was down under last year, retention of data on this scale “is so dangerous, you have to think of it as dynamite”. giving ASIO the power to ‘disrupt’ computers by adding, modifying or deleting files. giving ASIO the power to spy on a number of computers – including a whole computer network – under a single computer-access warrant. giving ASIS (Australia’s foreign intelligence agency) the power to collect intelligence on Australian citizens overseas. creating a new criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for revealing information about ‘special intelligence operations’.

This comes with no exceptions and would apply to journalists, even if they were unaware that they were revealing information about such an operation. Taken together, these and the other proposals would create the potential for government surveillance on a massive and unprecedented scale, with serious implications for the privacy and civil liberties of all Australians. They could have a serious chilling effect on free speech by inducing people to self-censor.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has called the anti-whistleblower section of this legislation (section 35P) ‘an unprecedented overreach’ by the government that the Labor Party will be opposing. We believe these proposals undermine the presumption of innocence and would create a situation where all Australians would be considered potential suspects, rather than enjoying the freedom from government surveillance and interference that we deserve as citizens of a democracy.

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