Govt spying through undersea cables


blog Thought you knew every avenue that the Government had to spy on you? Tapping your phone line, getting access to metadata about your emails and Internet access, watching you through public surveillance cameras, checking into your taxation and health records, hacking into your PC and smartphone directly and so on? Well, now there’s a new way. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, new revelations coming out of US whistleblower Edwards Snowden have revealed that the Australian Signals Directorate habitually taps undersea fibre-optic cables from Australia. The newspaper reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“The nation’s electronic espionage agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, is in a partnership with British, American and Singaporean intelligence agencies to tap undersea fibre optic telecommunications cables that link Asia, the Middle East and Europe and carry much of Australia’s international phone and internet traffic.”

Coming on the heels of the revelations by Crikey last month that Telstra signed a secret agreement last decade with US Government agencies such as the FBI to hand over access to the company’s cables to the US, one does have to say that if Australians want to keep their international telephone and data traffic private, really the only way at the moment is to encrypt and VPN everything, avoiding all of the normal open Internet and telephone lines. And remember: That includes most of your Internet traffic, due to the fact that most popular Internet sites are located overseas. Don’t be fooled; Big Brother is definitely watching.

Image credit: Mateusz Stachowski, royalty free


  1. This is old news.
    The mechanism of capture and retrieval, and the access to information by Foreign Government agencies is, to me, far less important than the lack of control over the storage and management (all offshore) of the harvested data and the length of time and way in which Telstra (and the Federal Government of the day at the time of the agreement) has allowed the data to be kept.
    Very hazy are the details around the protective security measures that are being taken to safeguard the stored data against 3rd party access or theft, let alone the processes used to destroy and verify the destruction of the collected data at the end (if there is one) of any determined maximum time period.

  2. This is mostly a story about American surveilance.

    Remember; the Australians (and the British) are tapping the communications links back to America, then handing the information over to the Americans. That way they get to monitor communications of Americans, but don’t break their own laws saying they can’t tap American communications!

    Its a Win-Win! Since it is foreign intelligence they get to keep it warrant free!

    • While I agree with the general thrust of your comment with respect to America getting around their own laws by getting other countries to do the work for them.

      However, don’t be naive in thinking the Australian government isn’t getting reciprocal benefits in the other direction, in exactly the same way.

  3. And this sort of spying it seemed was the reason that the NZ – US undersea cable was shot down by the US. The US didnt want it built by a chinese firm who they suspected would spy on communications through that cable.
    I shouldnt have been surprised by the news that countries are already spying in this way – if the US are afraid that their enemy might do something, you can be sure that the US is already doing it.

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