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Australia passes cybersecurity bill despite privacy concerns

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Australia passed its Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill Wednesday, and privacy advocates are not happy.

“A sad day for civil liberties,” tweeted Jen Robinson, an Australian human rights lawyer.

The Cybercrime Bill’s stated intent is designed to address a wide swatch of Internet-based criminal activity. Nicola Roxon, Australia’s Attorney General, said it will help crack down on everything from fraud to piracy to child pornography. It will allow the country to join the Europe-based, 45-member Convention on Cybercrime, designed to harmonize international enforcement of Web-related crimes.

But some provisions of the bill not only go too far in violating Australians’ privacy, critics say, but also were wholly unnecessary to join the Convention.

The most heavily-criticized element of the bill is a government mandate that Internet service providers are tasked with storing 180 days’ worth of data every single user’s history—including search history and email use. As the bill stands, soon foreign countries can access Australians’ histories if they have a warrant.

“This proposed law goes well beyond the already controversial European convention on which it is based, and no explanation has been provided as to why,'' Scott Ludlam, an Australian Greens Party senator, said in a press release.

“The European Treaty doesn't require ongoing collection and retention of communications, but the Australian Bill does,” he added.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons