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  • Covert surveillance powers afforded to law enforcement agencies have been further expanded, giving agencies even greater access to individuals’ data.
  • Under the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Act 2021, three new classes of warrants can be used by law enforcement agencies to undertake a range of activities as part of criminal investigations.
  • Law enforcement officers acting under one of these warrants may apply for a court or Administrative Appeals Tribunal order requiring anyone to provide information or assist in the execution of the warrant. Recipients of a warrant or an order to assist must ensure they maintain strict confidentiality.

On 3 September 2021, the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Act 2021 (Cth) (‘Identify and Disrupt Act’) received Royal Assent. This Act primarily amends the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 (Cth) (‘Surveillance Devices Act’) and the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) (‘Crimes Act’) to introduce additional powers enabling the Australian Federal Police (‘AFP’) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (‘ACIC’) to covertly access and ‘disrupt’ data held on computers for purposes associated with combatting serious online crime.

These amendments further enhance the range of powers that were granted to law enforcement agencies in late 2018 by the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 (Cth) (widely referred to as the ‘decryption laws’).

What does the Identify and Disrupt Act do?

The Identify and Disrupt Act creates three new classes of warrants for which the AFP and the ACIC may apply when conducting investigations in connection with online activity. A warrant may be granted where a law enforcement officer reasonably suspects that one or more relevant offences are being, are about to be, or are likely to be, committed. The relevant offences the subject of these warrants must be ‘serious’ in nature and carry a maximum sentence of three or more years’ imprisonment.

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