Australian law enforcement used encryption laws 11 times last year


Australia’s contentious encryption laws were used 11 times between 1 July 2019 and June 30 2020, by three of the nation’s law enforcement bodies.

Revealed in the Department of Home Affairs’ latest Telecommunications (Interception And Access) Act 1979 — Annual Report 2019-20, New South Wales Police used the powers seven times, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) three times, and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) once.

All 11 instances were Technical Assistance Requests (TAR), which are voluntary requests for the designated communications providers to use their existing capabilities to access user communications.

The laws, passed in 2018, also create Technical Assistance Notices and Technical Capability Notices, which are compulsory notices to compel communications providers to use or create a new interception capability, respectively.

NSW Police used the notices in six cases of illicit drug offences and one of robbery.

Two of the AFP’s three TARS given in the period were not given for specific offences, but rather were given to be used against all serious offences as the need arose. These two TARs were then revoked prior to assistance being utilised, the report said. The Federal Police’s remaining TAR was used for cybercrime offenses.

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