Surveillance Laws and Powers

This section contains information about surveillance laws and powers relevant to online privacy.


Commonwealth Legislation

Surveillance Devices Act 2004 (Cth)

On 8 December 2004, Federal Parliament passed the Surveillance Devices Bill which significantly widened the circumstances in which Federal law enforcement agencies ("LEAs") (other than ASIO, ASIS and DSD) can covertly use data, optical, listening and tracking surveillance devices.

Among other things, it enables Federal Police to obtain "data surveillance" warrants permitting them to covertly install key logging devices etc in computers. EFA's submission to a Senate Committee inquiry expressed concerns about the high potential for data surveillance devices to be used to avoid the need for a telecommunications interception warrant unless the Bill was amended. Although the Committee subsequently recommended relevant amendments be made, the Bill was passed without amendment. For more information, see EFA's page about the Surveillance Device Bill.

(Note: The above Act does not cover the use of surveillance devices by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIS) or the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD). For information about these agencies' powers, refer to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (Cth) and the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (Cth).)

Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979

See EFA's Telecommunications Privacy Laws Page for information about the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979.

State/Territory Legislation

As at December 2004, all States and Territories had legislation regulating the use of listening devices by individuals and law enforcement authorities, but not all had enacted legislation dealing with data, optical and tracking surveillance devices (those that had were WA, Vic and NT). Model legislation had been prepared by a Joint Working Group established by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General and the Australasian Police Ministers Council and it was anticipated that all States and Territories would eventually enact similar legislation. (The Cth Surveillance Devices Act was based in part on the model legislation).