Australian politicians have another ‘world leader’ achievement to brag about..
We are one of the world’s leading surveillance states!
AUSTRALIA DATA REQUESTS
Australian authorities love asking Big Tech for user data.
They love it more than 4x the international average, actually.
This is according to a recent report on data surveillance from VPN provider, Surfshark, that reveals government requests for user data from Big Tech companies by local law enforcement and other agencies are amongst the world’s highest.
The analysis is based on transparency reports published by four major tech companies – Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft.
Included on this list is data for 117 countries, between 2013 and 2021.
The user data requests include two metrics:
- The number of requests a company receives from authorities
- The number of accounts specified within them.
The report totalled up 6.6 million account requests, which included a staggering 81,422 requests from Australia.
Dividing that figure by population, Australia came in 9th out of 117 countries, with 315.6 accounts requested per 100,000 people:
Australia ranking as ninth in the world per capita puts us right behind the U.S, Germany, U.K, France, Singapore, Ireland, Portugal and Belgium, while we sit ahead of 108 other countries.
Australia shows the same trend, with a 164% increase from 2013 to 2021.
Requested accounts grew by 12% in 2021 alone, compared to 2020.
Who was the worst? According to the report, Apple complied with the most user data requests at 82%, compared to Meta, Google, and Microsoft at 72%, 71%, and 68%, respectively.
While the compliance has been steadily declining at Microsoft and Meta over several years, the disclosure rates are at record highs at Apple and Google.
Surfshark privacy counsel, Gabriele Kaveckyte, said that while the intent by law enforcement and others is generally to reduce crime, there are concerns around misuse to stifle political dissent.
“Besides requesting data from technology companies, authorities are now exploring more ways to monitor and tackle crime through online services. For instance, the EU is considering a regulation that would require internet service providers to detect, report, and remove abuse-related content,” he said.
“On one hand, introducing such new measures could help solve serious criminal cases, but civil society organisations expressed their concerns of encouraging surveillance techniques which may later be used, for example, to track down political rivals.”
Indeed, civil liberty advocates have spoken out against Australia’s creeping surveillance state for years, to no avail.
This report goes to show you just the scope that agencies have their fingerprints in social media.
Since 9/11, a worldwide monitoring system unrivalled in history was established.
Australia, piece by piece, has been able to get to this point.
In this report, the US and Europe (five countries) account for around 60% of all requests, with the U.S seeking more than double the accounts per 100K people than all EU countries combined.
The number of accounts requested increased more than five times from 2013 to 2021, including 2021 seeing a year-over-year increase of around 25%.
But here is the thing: If the U.S. requests Australian data, we give it to them.
In 2013, Edward Snowden leaked the most significant archive of classified intelligence documents in US history since the Pentagon Papers, known as PRISM.
Amongst the revelations of spying and ‘orwellian’ surveillance reach, the documents also revealed a connection detailing Australia’s role in an association of data monitoring, collecting and sharing.
PRISM uncovered a unilateral intelligence community that engages in longstanding exchanges of information, including Australia’s responsibility for contributing to the network.
We have a responsibility for contributing to the network from our own region – most notably South East Asia. The information in the system is then available to any one of the ‘Five Eyes’ countries – the US, The UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The first disclosure of Australian involvement in US global surveillance identified four facilities in the country that contribute to a key American intelligence collection program:
The US-Australian Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs and three Australian Signals Directorate facilities:
The Shoal Bay Receiving Station near Darwin, the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Facility at Geraldton and the Naval Communications Station HMAS Harman outside Canberra.
These domestic facilities contribute to the NSA’s collection program are codenamed X-Keyscore.
As a result, on a per capita basis, Australian organisations have grown to become 20 times more likely to intercept telephone calls than the United States government. This includes accessing phone and internet data an astonishing 1,200 times per week.
The shocking truth is that government agencies can access telephone and Internet data records without a warrant from a judge. This includes state and federal police agencies, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and Medicare.
This was just the beginning. A massive shift came in 2014 with the ‘three bills of doom’ all passed consecutively.
The 2014 National Security Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) extended ASIO’s powers such that one computer access warrant could “cover a whole computer network, allowing ASIO officers to disrupt the operation of targeted computers and use third party computers to access targeted computers.”
It also forced telecommunications companies to store customer metadata for a two year period, and also increased periods that potential ‘terrorists’ can be held in detention without charge.
But that wasn’t enough for them. In 2018, the Australian government passed anti-encryption legislation that shocked the world, allowing for backdoors into encrypted devices and platforms. A move privacy campaigners lashed out at.
Yet, despite all of this, they still say that social media should be censored and even more scrutinised.
Now, I’m not the biggest fan of social media, but when do we say ‘enough is enough’?
Tens of thousands of requests for social media alone, in a country with only 26 million people.
Big Brother is Watching, ladies and gentlemen.
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