tip off

What the AFP asks for when it wants to wiretap you

This article has been corrected - see below

Some light has been thrown on the extent and nature of Australian Federal Police surveillance, after the Greens obtained copies of the AFP’s telephone and internet surveillance templates.

In answer to questions from Greens senator Scott Ludlam at February’s Additional Estimates hearings, the AFP has provided copies of the documents it uses to obtain information about surveillance targets from telecommunications companies and ISPs. The questions followed the release of the annual Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act report that showed law enforcement agencies obtained over 243,000 authorisations made for access to existing telecommunications information in 2010-11.

The number was down on the 280,000+ the previous year due to a big fall in NSW Police intercepts, but the Federal Police obtained nearly 23,000 accesses, up from 20,869 the year before. The data does not cover interceptions by intelligence and security agencies like ASIO.

The four warrants cover historical telephone subscriber information, SEEK data for a telephone number, user data (including credit card details and internet activity data such as log-on times and sites visited) for an IP address and call charge records — the details of telephone calls, including locational data — for identified phone numbers. Each of the intercept requests is simply authorisable by a Federal Police officer.

While the request for internet use data does not include specific content such as emails, search engine entries or postings on websites, it is normally sufficient to build up a detailed profile of an individual far beyond that provided by telephone data, even if the specific user of an IP address remains unknown. A user’s log-in times and the sites they’ve visited can allow correlation of data such as social media profiles, even if they’re used anonymously, while their web visits will reveal much about them. On the other hand, call charge records allow tracking of a user via their mobile phone location every time they call.

And what’s SEEK data? After much asking around, we finally discovered what it is: it’s not an acronym, but the name of project between Telstra and the AFP that allows access to information such a locational data for international roaming services. It’s not used very often.

Correction: the original version of this article referred to other 243,000 interception warrants; the AFP has correctly pointed out the number refers to accesses to existing information, not warrants. The relevant text has been amended above.

9
  • 1
    bluepoppy
    Posted Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Over 243,000! That seems like an awful lot of crims, even for a penal colony. :)

    Must be due to all those Green coal protestors one has been reading about lately. Makes you wonder exactly what it takes to be the target of an intercept these days. It used to be only used in the rarest of cases with lots of evidence to substantiate approval such as direct threats etc.

  • 2
    Harry Rogers
    Posted Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it great to see how far we have come as a country when so called “Law enforcement agencies” seek to spy on us at the rate of 240,000 warrants per annum.

    There’s only one guarantee out there and it is that it will just get worse and worse and become an “acceptable” part of being a “free!!” citizen in Australia.

    The justifications for all this will become a memory.

  • 3
    Matthew of Canberra
    Posted Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I feel safer already.

  • 4
    bsg
    Posted Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how many of those lead to an arrest/conviction?

  • 5
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    That’s about 2% of the adult working electorate. Welcome to the Future when surveillance will be total.
    The idiot’s pabulum, “if you do nothing wrong..”, is not just wrong but irrelevant. From the days of credit check agencies onwards, the real danger is not so much when everything is known about a citizen but when more is known than is true.
    Most intell databases use the Admiralty rating system A-F/1-6 - A1 meaning true & verified all the way to F6, kitty litter tray.
    The vast majority is rated C3-4 and at least 20% lower than E5.
    And for this we spend untold (and untellable, coz it’s sekret like..) millions.

  • 6
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    The AFP are spying on muslims and refugees.

  • 7
    Ascarygoat
    Posted Friday, 4 May 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    It would be interesting to learn how many of the warrants obtained were actually utilised. It seems unlikely that Australian police have the resources to conduct 243000 telecommunication and internet intercepts a year in any meaningful way. Are the vast majority of these warrants issued on a ‘just in case we need it basis’?

  • 8
    Brady
    Posted Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    The oldie but a goodie comes to mind from Ben Franklin,

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

    A great man, yes, and also a reader of the future. Maybe they should just spy on the bad people???? And don’t be fooled, the 240, 000 odd is what we know about. You can bet there is a host of other thing they do for the ‘good of all’.

  • 9
    izatso?
    Posted Saturday, 5 May 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    ask SAIC . Its political division has complete integrity, is totally unbiased and its impartiality is unimpeachable (!). Anyone may bid for its services.

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