The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 (SLAID Bill) introduces three new powers for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to combat serious online crime. These crimes include the criminal use of the dark web and anonymising technologies. The powers will help the AFP and the ACIC to deal with cyber-enabled crime in the digital era.
Criminals are using the dark web to:
- buy and sell stolen identities
- trade illicit commodities
- deal in child abuse material
- organise and engage in other criminal activities.
The dark web and anonymising technologies allow criminals to hide their identities and activities from law enforcement agencies. An obstacle to investigating these crimes has been attributing criminal activity to particular individuals, organisations, premises or devices, especially on the dark web.
New powers proposed for the AFP and ACIC
The SLAID Bill aims to address gaps in the existing legislative framework. It will allow the AFP and the ACIC to collect intelligence, conduct investigations, disrupt and prosecute serious criminal online activity. The Bill introduces three new powers for the AFP and the ACIC:
Data disruption warrants will allow the disruption of data through modification and deletion to frustrate the commission of serious offences, such as the distribution of child abuse material.
Network activity warrants will allow the collection of intelligence on serious criminal activity carried out by criminal networks operating online.
Account takeover warrants will allow the control of a person’s online account to gather evidence about criminal activity to further a criminal investigation.
Oversight, safeguards and accountability
The Bill contains strong safeguards, including oversight and controls on the use of information. This will ensure the AFP and the ACIC use these powers in a targeted and proportionate manner. The safeguards will minimise the potential impact on the privacy of individuals and legitimate users of online platforms. There are strong protections on the use and disclosure of information collected under these warrants. The AFP and the ACIC will also be subject to strict record-keeping and destruction requirements.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman will be responsible for overseeing the use of data disruption warrants and account takeover warrants. This is consistent with the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s current oversight of the AFP and the ACIC’s use of electronic surveillance powers. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) will oversee network activity warrants, given their nature as an intelligence collection tool.
The following pages contain further detail about the three new powers:
The following page explains how the Bill interacts with current frameworks for the communications industry to assist agencies with investigations and operations.