Archive: August 30, 2021

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An even ‘hacking’ field – Government Surveillance Bill passed by Parliament
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UK unveils plan to diverge from GDPR

An even ‘hacking’ field – Government Surveillance Bill passed by Parliament

By Cameron Abbott and Ella Richards

The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 (Identify and Disrupt Bill) passed both houses of federal parliament on 25 August 2021. The new legislation extends the power of law enforcement agencies to identify and disrupt suspected online criminal activity through the provision of three new warrants.

The new warrants provide the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission with the power to:

  1. Modify or delete the data of suspected offenders (data disruption warrants);
  2. Collect intelligence on criminal networks (network activity warrants), and
  3. Take control of a suspected offenders’ online account (account takeover warrants).

Anyone required to assist with government hacking is protected from civil liability. However, anyone who refuses to comply can face up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Online criminal networks are evolving rapidly with the use of anonymising technology – making the detection of serious online crime near impossible. Encrypted applications such as Discord have stated that approximately 536 verified dealers sold $100,000+ of illegal substances/stolen goods in one week, despite Discord’s “zero-tolerance” approach to illegal activity.

On the other hand, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) previously warned that the new warrant powers could adversely impact the privacy of a large number of individuals – including those with no suspected involvement in criminal activity.

The complexity of online crime makes it increasingly necessary for law enforcement agencies to level the playing field, identify suspected criminal activity and intercept that activity before it is actioned. However, proportionate consideration of individual privacy rights has created a lively debate in the passage of the legislation thus far.

The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2021 is now awaiting Royal Assent. Keep an eye on our Cyber Law Watch blog further updates.

UK unveils plan to diverge from GDPR

By Norin McFadden and Claude-Étienne Armingaud

The UK government has announced that it intends to consult on a new, post-Brexit data protection regime, potentially moving away from the UK General Data Protection Regulation that currently underpins the UK’s data protection legislation. The Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said, “It means reforming our own data laws so that they’re based on common sense, not box-ticking.

A public consultation on the new legislation will follow, but it is clear that the United Kingdom must be careful about any changes it makes to its data regime in order to avoid disrupting the EU-UK adequacy decision with EU GDPR awarded just two months ago. The adequacy decision allows personal data from the European Union to flow freely to the United Kingdom (and vice versa), without businesses needing to put any additional paperwork in place. In granting the adequacy decision, the European Union placed particular emphasis on the fact that the United Kingdom was continuing to base its data protection laws on the same EU GDPR rules that had applied when it was a member of the European Union. A European Commission spokesperson commented that the EU will be closely monitoring any developments in UK data laws and noted that: “In case of problematic developments that negatively affect the level of protection found adequate, the adequacy decision can be suspended, terminated or amended, at any time by the Commission.

It will be interesting to see how far the United Kingdom diverges, particularly as the current trend is that other countries seem to be keen to state that their data protection laws closely follow the EU GDPR.

The UK government also announced that its preferred candidate to be the next Information Commissioner, head of the UK data protection regulator, will be John Edwards, currently in charge of New Zealand’s data regulator, a country that also maintains an EU adequacy decision.

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