Media Releases – Electronic Frontiers Australia Promoting and protecting digital rights in Australia since 1994. Sun, 18 Feb 2018 01:47:39 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 Data retention: universal warrant requirement is only effective protection Sun, 30 Apr 2017 20:48:43 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Come back with a warrant imageLast week’s revelation by the Australian Federal Police that they illegally accessed the retained telecommunications data (‘metadata’) of a journalist without first obtaining a warrant demonstrates the complete lack of effective protection provided by the current legislation.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin asserted that ‘the police officers investigating the leak did not realise they were required to obtain a warrant to access the journalist's metadata.’ The requirement to obtain a warrant to access the data of journalists came into effect on 13th October 2015. It is therefore inexcusable for the officers involved to be unaware of this requirement. In addition, of course, ignorance of the law is no defence.

As journalist Paul Farrell told ABC’s The Drum, this incident is “a systemic, structural failure of the AFP’s internal policies and the law”.

EFA has warned in the past that a warrant requirement limited to one group provides no effective protection whatsoever in the context of an indiscriminate, society-wide mandatory data retention scheme.

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said, “A whole range of relationships are no less deserving of independent protection than are journalist’s communications with their sources, including lawyers and their clients, doctors and their patients, and any other relationship where privacy is critical. The only effective means to achieve such protection is to have a universal warrant requirement for access to retained telecommunications data.

“Without a universal warrant requirement we will continue to see instances of unauthorised access to data, regardless of whether such access is inadvertent or malicious.

“A majority of European Union member states have some form of independent, judicial authorisation required for access to telecommunications data. Such arrangements are therefore clearly workable and Australians are no less deserving of the same protection.”

EFA therefore calls for the immediate introduction of a universal warrant requirement for all access to retained telecommunications data.

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EFA concerned by Nikolic appointment, lack of support for encryption Thu, 25 Feb 2016 01:49:06 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Andrea Schaffer - CC-BY

Andrea Schaffer - CC-BY

EFA is concerned about yesterday’s announcement that Tasmanian MP Andrew Nikolic is to be appointed as Chair of the critical Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Mr Nikolic’s hard-line views on national security issues and his apparent disdain for civil liberties suggest that he is unlikely to bring a balanced and objective perspective to the important work of this committee.
Independent and objective oversight of Australia’s security and intelligence laws and agencies has never been more important to ensure that the civil liberties of Australians are not unnecessarily sacrificed in the name of ‘national security’.

EFA has previously called for greater independence and an expanded scope for the Intelligence and Security Committee, including oversight of operational matters.

The Committee’s equivalent in the United Kingdom parliament, which has significantly more expansive powers, has recently demonstrated its own newfound independence from government by tabling a report that is scathing in its criticism of the UK government’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill, specifically that the bill "appears to have suffered from a lack of sufficient time and preparation" and the Committee called for an entirely new section dedicated to privacy protections.

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said today, “While the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee has recently found itself defending the privacy and civil liberties of UK citizens in the face of significant government overreach, it is very difficult to imagine Australia’s Intelligence and Security Committee taking a similarly independent position with Mr Nikolic in the chair. This is appointment is particularly disappointing given Prime Minister Turnbull’s previously-expressed support for civil liberties.”[1]

Labor, Coalition vote against encryption

EFA is also disappointed that both Labor party and Coalition senators yesterday voted against a motion moved by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, which called upon the government to “support the continued development and use of strong encryption technologies; resist any push from other governments to weaken encryption on personal devices; and work with law enforcement to develop alternative avenues to obtain information through warrants and targeted surveillance that does not put every Australian at greater risk of identity theft.”

EFA, along with hundreds of other organisations from over 40 countries, has signed an open letter to world leaders calling on them to support the safety and security of users, companies, and governments by strengthening the integrity of communications and systems. In doing so, governments should reject laws, policies, or other mandates or practices, including secret agreements with companies, that limit access to or undermine encryption and other secure communications tools and technologies.

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said today, “it’s disappointing that both major parties have chosen to reject the opportunity to commit to privacy and strong encryption. These are critical enablers of digital communications and commerce, and calls for them to be undermined in the name of ‘national security’ are fundamentally misguided and dangerous.”

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OpenMedia supports the Digital Rights 2016 campaign Tue, 16 Feb 2016 00:40:06 +0000 Continue reading ]]> OpenMedia logo
OpenMedia, a Vancouver, Canada-based digital rights advocacy organisation that utilises creative community-driven campaigns to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free is supporting the Digital Rights 2016 campaign.

Co-ordinated by Electronic Frontiers Australia, Digital Rights 2016 is a non-partisan awareness-raising campaign intended to raise the profile of the whole range of digital rights issues in the mainstream political discussion in Australia into the 2016 federal election and beyond.

OpenMedia ran the Our Digital Future campaign during the 2015 Canadian federal election which was successful in ensuring digital rights issues received serious attention.

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said today, “I’m delighted that OpenMedia are bringing the benefit of their campaigning experience during last year’s remarkable Canadian election to the Digital Rights 2016 campaign. EFA has worked with OpenMedia on a number of campaigns in the past and I’m certain they will be an invaluable supporter of this campaign.”

OpenMedia Communications Manager, David Christopher, had this to say about the partnership: “As an international organisation, OpenMedia looks for opportunities to ensure that the digital rights of all global citizens are protected. This project is a step towards ensuring those rights are both respected and promoted by national decision-makers, and we’ve very excited to see EFA leading on this important work in Australia.”

The Digital Rights 2016 campaign utilises the domain name as well as a dedicated Facebook page and Twitter account.

EFA launches Digital Rights 2016 campaign Mon, 08 Feb 2016 01:15:43 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Digital Rights logoEFA today announces the launch of the Digital Rights 2016 campaign. This generic and non-partisan campaign is intended to raise awareness of the importance of digital rights throughout the Australian community in the lead-up to the 2016 Federal election and beyond.

The primary issues that will be addressed as part of the campaign are:

  • Privacy – including mass surveillance and privacy protections
  • Access – including net neutrality and digital inclusion (supporting the 2016 National Year of Digital Inclusion)
  • Censorship – promoting freedom of expression online
  • Digital Citizenship – promoting respect and tolerance and resisting bullying and harassment
  • Copyright – including enforcement activities and positive reform such as fair use

The campaign will not be presented as ‘an EFA campaign’ but is rather intended to be open for involvement and collaboration from as wide a range of interested parties as possible. EFA therefore invites civil society organisations, commercial entities and individuals across the country to support this campaign during this election year.

While launching the campaign at the EFA-hosted social event held at the end of Linux Conference Australia in Geelong on Friday 5th February, EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said, “In an increasingly digitised world, digital rights need to be mainstream political issues. Australians lack the constitutional protections that are enjoyed by many other nations and the potential for abuse of these rights here is very real, whether from government overreach, private sector failures or individual actions. With support for innovation already set to be a key policy area for the election, it is critical that digital rights issues are also given mainstream attention.”

The Digital Rights 2016 campaign will utilise the domain name as well as a dedicated Facebook page and Twitter account.

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EFA welcomes proposed amendments to section 35P Wed, 03 Feb 2016 13:03:28 +0000 Continue reading ]]> EFA welcomes Tuesday’s announcement by the Attorney-General that the government has accepted and intends to implement all of the changes to section 35P of the ASIO Act that have been recommended by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.

Section 35P of the ASIO Act was added in 2014 as part of the government’s first ‘tranche’ of national security legislation and created a criminal offence with a prison term of up to 10 years for any disclosure of a ‘Special Intelligence Operation’.


ASIO HQ. © J Lawrence: CC-BY

The indiscriminate and overly broad nature of the current section combined with the inherent secrecy involved in ‘Special Intelligence Operations’ with severe penalties represents a direct threat to the ability of journalists to report on the activities of ASIO. As the Monitor explains in his report, it “creates uncertainty as to what may be published about the activities of ASIO without fear of prosecution.”

As EFA has pointed out previously, this chilling effect is a fundamental threat to Australia’s democracy as it undermines the media’s ability to hold these agencies to account when they exceed their authority or get things badly wrong.

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said today, “it is reassuring that the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor has concluded that section 35P arguably breaches the constitutional protection of freedom of political communication and is also inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations, specifically article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. EFA welcomes the government’s acceptance of the Monitor’s recommendations to wind back some of the draconian controls on reporting of intelligence operations that section 35P represents. We would however like to see some additional protections introduced in the form of specific whistle-blower protections for ‘insiders’ to allow for disclosures where there is a clear public interest.”

Attorney-General must properly resource Information Commission Tue, 19 Jan 2016 23:46:47 +0000 Continue reading ]]> CC-BY-SA CC-BY-SA

EFA today calls on the Attorney-General to cease his absurd war of attrition with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Since announcing in 2014 that it intended to abolish the Office, the government has starved the agency of funds and has failed to reappoint two of the three statutory officer positions, despite the reality that it is unable to get its legislation to abolish the Office through the Senate.

Yesterday the Attorney-General announced that Timothy Pilgrim would be given a third three month appointment as Information Commissioner, while also holding the other statutory offices of Privacy Commissioner and Freedom of Information Commissioner.

Meanwhile, the Attorney-General is contesting Freedom of Information requests relating to his diary and to his own ‘metadata’.

OGP logoIn contrast, on 17th November 2015, the Prime Minister announced that Australia would be re-committing to the Open Government Partnership.

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said today, “The ongoing uncertainty that the government has created in the oversight of privacy and freedom of information must cease immediately. If Prime Minister Turnbull is serious about his commitment to open government, then he must direct the Attorney-General to promptly make long-term appointments to the three statutory officer positions – Information Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner and Freedom of Information Commissioner – as well as to provide proper funding to support these critical roles. Without this, the Prime Minister’s commitment to open government must be seriously questioned.”

EFA is a founding member of the Australian Open Government Partnership Network, an independent coalition of individuals and organisations formed for the purpose of engaging with government in this process.

EFA joins Global Call to World Leaders to Support Strong Encryption Mon, 11 Jan 2016 19:50:18 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Yuri Samoilov CC-BY

Yuri Samoilov CC-BY

Today Electronic Frontiers Australia joins experts and organisations in more than 35 countries in asking world leaders to support strong encryption and to reject any law, policy, or mandate that would undermine digital security.

This open letter is now open to public support and is hosted at:

In countries including France, India, the UK, China and the US, governments are considering legislation and other proposals that would undermine strong encryption. However, safety and privacy depend on secure communications tools and technologies. This letter represents the collective voice of technologists and organisations that rely on encryption.

“The internet belongs to the world’s people, not its governments. We refuse to let this precious resource become nationalized and broken by any nation. This letter seeks to unify the voices of global internet users by demanding the protection of tools necessary to the expression of our human rights,” said Brett Solomon, Executive Director of Access Now.

The letter allows organisations and individuals to declare their support for strong encryption. The letter will be delivered to world leaders who, according to press reports, are considering legislation and other steps that would undermine encryption.

“Encryption and anonymity, and the security concepts behind them, provide the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age,” said David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion & Expression.

Several countries are considering proposals that would require companies to provide exceptional access to encrypted materials. This would create a “backdoor” to allow access to any encrypted file including personal conversations, medical and banking records.

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said today, “Calls to undermine encryption in the name of ‘national security’ are fundamentally misguided and dangerous. Encryption is a necessary and critical tool enabling individual privacy, a free media, online commerce and the operations of organisations of all types, including of course government agencies. Undermining encryption therefore represents a serious threat to national security in its own right, as well as threatening basic human rights and the enormous economic and social benefits that the digital revolution has brought for people across the globe.”

Other Australian organisations supporting this letter are the Australian Privacy Foundation, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, BluePrint for Free Speech and FutureWise.

Proposed copyright amendments welcome but insufficient Wed, 23 Dec 2015 06:00:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> EFA welcomes today’s release by the Department of Communications of an exposure draft of proposed amendments to the Copyright Act that seeks to address a number of important weaknesses in the current law relating particularly to the educational, library and archives sectors. In particular, EFA welcomes the proposed extension in the safe harbour provisions, as we called for earlier this month.

EFA is however disappointed that the government continues to avoid meaningful progress on the introduction of a broad flexible fair use provision, as was recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission in their November 2013 report on Copyright and the Digital Economy.

A broad flexible fair use exception is a well-overdue reform that is critical to ensuring Australia is able to benefit fully from digital innovation by introducing much-needed flexibility within the law that will allow new technologies and services to be developed and brought to market in Australia.

As EFA Chair David Cake said recently, “Australia’s Copyright Act is outdated and no longer fit for purpose in the digital age. A broad flexible fair use exception is central to copyright law in the United States, Singapore, Israel and other nations that are leading the world in digital innovation. If the government is serious about digital innovation, they need to move to implement fair use…without further delay.”

Digital innovation requires copyright reform Tue, 08 Dec 2015 21:27:44 +0000 Continue reading ]]> EFA welcomes the release of the government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda but is disappointed that the agenda is silent on copyright reform.

As recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission in their November 2013 report on Copyright and the Digital Economy, the introduction of a broad flexible fair use exception into Australian copyright law is a well-overdue reform that is critical to ensuring Australia is able to benefit fully from digital innovation.

EFA Chair David Cake said today, “Australia’s Copyright Act is outdated and no longer fit for purpose in the digital age. A broad flexible fair use exception is central to copyright law in the United States, Singapore, Israel and other nations that are leading the world in digital innovation. If the government is serious about digital innovation, they need to move to implement fair use, and to fix up the safe harbour protections within the Copyright Act, without further delay.”

As Professor Jill McKeogh, head of the ALRC Inquiry said in February 2014, “Fair use is a flexible exception that can be applied to new technologies and services, which is crucial in the digital economy.”

The government is proceeding with the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty, a ground-breaking global agreement designed to improve accessibility to content for the visually-impaired. The Marrakesh Treaty involves broad exceptions that allow transformation of existing content without the need for explicit permission from the copyright holder and therefore represents a significant step towards a broad flexible fair use exception.

EFA therefore calls on the government to build on this positive work in relation to the Marrakesh Treaty to implement a broad flexible fair use exception that will remove the many significant hurdles in Australia’s current copyright Act that are preventing the realisation of the full benefit of the digital revolution.

In addition, EFA calls on the Communications Minister to rectify the unnecessarily limited safe harbour protections currently available within the Copyright Act.

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EFA calls for universal warrant requirement for data retention Mon, 07 Dec 2015 22:05:13 +0000 Continue reading ]]> EFA welcomes the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights [PDF] which confirms that the protections for journalists included in this year’s mandatory data retention legislation are inadequate and may ‘limit the right to an effective remedy, fair hearing, privacy and freedom of expression.’

While the Committee’s report primarily addresses the procedural shortcomings in this context, it is clear that the entire concept of creating a special case for one section of the community is fundamentally flawed.

EFA Chair David Cake said, “It’s simply not possible to carve one section of the community out of a mandatory, society-wide data retention scheme. While protecting journalist’s sources in order to facilitate effective whistle-blowing is critical to ensuring accountability in the public sector, there are many other privileged communications that also deserve protection, including lawyer-clients, doctor-patients and many others. The only way to achieve effective protection is for a warrant requirement to be implemented for all access to retained telecommunications data.”

Contrary to previous assertions by the Attorney-General and other advocates for warrantless access to this information that a universal warrant requirement would be unworkable, there are many countries that have had such a requirement for some years. Within the European Union, 11 Member States require judicial authorisation for all requests for access to retained data and another three Member States require judicial authorisation in most cases.

EFA calls on the federal parliament to urgently review this legislation, and to implement a universal warrant requirement for access to retained telecommunications data. Without this requirement, the mandatory data retention scheme represents a clear and serious threat not only to the privacy of all Australians but to the ability of the media to hold governments to account. As such, it undermines the effective functioning of Australia’s democracy.

Mandatory Data Breach Notification Legislation

EFA also notes last week’s announcement by the Attorney-General of an exposure draft of mandatory data breach notification legislation. While the release of this exposure draft is welcome, it does not fulfil the Attorney’s previous commitments to have such legislation introduced to the parliament before the end of this year.

Given that similar legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in 2013 and only failed to pass the Senate when parliament was prorogued for the 2013 election, and that the bill was re-introduced in 2014 as a private member’s bill, it is disappointing that the Attorney has been so slow to act on this important issue.

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