NSWCCL is gravely concerned by a recent Report1 from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, which identified that many of the authorisations made by ACT Policing for access to telecommunications data between 13 October 2015 and 2019 were not properly authorised. Of the 1,713 individual accesses to location-based services (LBS) by ACT Policing for that period, only nine were fully compliant with the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA Act).
The Report also found that many LBS could have been accessed unlawfully. If the information was relied on in prosecutions, this would have consequences for people convicted of an offence. The privacy of individuals may also have been breached.
The Ombudsman could not be satisfied that the scope of the breaches had been fully identified by the AFP nor that AFP and ACT Policing took opportunities to identify and address the breaches.
“The internal procedures at ACT Policing and a cavalier approach to exercising the powers resulted in a culture that did not promote compliance with the TIA Act. This contributed to the non-compliance identified in this report.2”
The report found that the AFP needs to do more to confirm the extent of non-compliance with the legislation and remediate any consequences of non-compliance with the TIA Act identified in the report. Eight recommendations were made, including for compliance-focused guidance and procedures and consequences for officers who demonstrate continued non-compliance with legislative requirements.
NSWCCL agrees with the Ombudsman’s observations that to maintain public trust these tools need to be properly deployed, in accordance with the legislation which governs their use. Given the Federal Government’s increased desire to introduce sweeping anti-terrorist laws, such as the identify and disrupt laws, NSWCCL has no confidence that the government can oversee or implement safeguards put in place to protect the rights of its citizens.
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