Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why lawful access legislation should not be allowed

This is why lawful access legislation should not be allowed to pass.

The Guardian is reporting on equipment being used by London's Metropolitan Police to eavesdrop on cell phones: Met police using surveillance system to monitor mobile phones | UK news | The Guardian.

The last iteration of lawful access legislation that fell off the order paper with the last federal election would have allowed police to obtain any of the following information, without a warrant, without oversight, without justification and even without any active investigation:

  • name,
  • address,
  • telephone number and
  • electronic mail address,
  • Internet protocol address,
  • mobile identification number,
  • electronic serial number,
  • local service provider identifier,
  • international mobile equipment identity number,
  • international mobile subscriber identity number and
  • subscriber identity module card number that are associated with the subscriber’s service and equipment.

In the abstract, that may sound innocuous, but it's far from it.

The equipment described in the Guardian article allows police to scan the airwaves and pick out the unique identifiers for all cell phones in the area. With that identifier, they can get any of the above information, again without a warrant and without any justification. Such a device could be used to identify anyone at a lawful protest, regardless of whether they had done anything wrong. We expect to carry on our lawful lives free from police intrusion unless a judge can be persuaded that the police are justified in their intrusion into your life, including the fact that the intrusion relates to a lawful investigation into criminal wrongdoing. Lawful access would remove the only check and balance, allowing police the ability monitor citizens without any reason.

This is not the country we should aspire to live in.

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