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Police spy on web, phone usage with no warrants

Just so it remains clear just how much surveillance can happen in Commonwealth countries when authorities enjoy broad lawful access to communications data without needing warrants:

Law enforcement and government departments are accessing vast quantities of phone and internet usage data without warrants, prompting warnings from the Greens of a growing “surveillance state” and calls by privacy groups for tighter controls.

Figures released by the federal Attorney-General’s Department show that federal and state government agencies accessed telecommunications data and internet logs more than 250,000 times during criminal and revenue investigations in 2010-11.

(…)

Access is authorised by senior police officers or officials rather than by judicial warrant.

Federal agencies making use of telecommunications data include the Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission and Australian Taxation Office, departments including Defence, Immigration and Citizenship, and Health and Ageing, and Medicare and Australia Post.

Data is also accessed by state police and anti-corruption bodies, government departments and revenue offices, and many other official bodies.

Needless to say, that’s an awful lot of parties accessing an awful lot of information about Australian citizens. Not included: statistics on telecommunications data access by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.