After a very short consultation period, the Attorney-General's Department is soliciting comments on its exposure draft of 'computer network protection' amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth).
EFA's submission addresses our key concern that the proposed legislation provides a very broad exception to the prohibition on interception of network communications for the purposes of ensuring that a network is 'appropriately used'. This is a very broad category that means that all network operators in Australia will be able to monitor the substance of communications that pass over their network for compliance with their Acceptable Use Policies - the terms of which could include nearly anything. The AGD suggests that this is necessary to increase security, but have not shown any convincing justification why the contents of communications need to be examined nor why the scheme should extend beyond corporate networks to all Australian networks - including consumer ISPs.
This proposed changed threatens to radically alter the ability of network operators to intercept, store, and disclose information passing over their networks. There are no safeguards to prevent disclosure to law enforcement agencies or third parties. It is entirely possible for these new provisions to be used to examine P2P filesharing data for copyright violations, for example, and to disclose any captured information to copyright owners.
EFA contends that this exposure draft is far too broad and unjustifiably infringes the privacy of Australian internet users. We call upon the Attorney-General's Department to critically examine the proposed legislation and tighten the exceptions to the broad prohibition on interception to a clear set of defined purposes and parties.