The Greens’ policy document, available online here in PDF format, details five key planks. Firstly, the Greens would include security agencies such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation under the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act, which would mean that such agencies would be forced to report on their telecommunications interception activities for the first time.
Secondly, the Greens would force corporations and government departments to notify affected stakeholders if their privacy was breached through a hack attack or similar data breach. Thirdly, in a move which comes after it was revealed that giant US cloud computing providers were providing direct access to data hosted on their systems to the US National Security Agency, the Greens would require IT providers and carriage service providers such as ISPs to advise customers of any agreements with foreign or local governments which could lead to the provision of data to government agencies.
“These companies should be required to identify the agency, the date of the agreement, the relevant documentation and any follow‐up documentation such as compliance reports, plus an annual report of how often information has been provided,” the Greens policy document states.
Fourthly, the Greens would attempt to set up an agreement between the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ countries — the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and New Zealand — that would see information sharing limited.
The policy document states: “The Greens believe that an agreement is needed among the five eyes cluster of countries sharing intelligence that any information held by the all partners on nationals of the other countries be stored only within the borders of that country and unless directly related to a national security operation or criminal trial, accessible only with the approval of the host government, with an annual report of how many requests for access have been made.”
Lastly, the Greens would bring security agencies such as ASIO under the Freedom of Information Act, which they are currently exempt from.
“Edward Snowden has revealed that widespread, warrantless and illegal surveillance is occurring,”said Australian Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam in a statement, referring to the controversial whistleblower, which exposed the PRISM program at the NSA. “Initial government and corporation denial has since been exposed as lies, perjury and obfuscation while the surveillance simply continues.”
“While these illegal activities remain unchallenged, citizens are treated as suspects and our human right to privacy and freedom of expression are trampled. While the old parties pretend nothing is happening, the world is in uproar about the US National Security Agency using the PRISM backdoor program to conduct warrantless surveillance through the servers of companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook.”
“The Australian Greens will announce five protective measures to bring intelligence agencies, IT providers and governments within the ambit of the rule of law.”
The release of the Greens’ policy in this area comes as both major sides of politics have declined to release policies in the area of digital rights. Last week, Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus flatly refused to take part in a live election interview on key technology issues in his portfolio, such as copyright reform, data retention, telecommunications surveillance and Internet piracy, stipulating instead that all questions on the issues must be submitted in writing. The Attorney-General habitually only answers questions in writing with very brief answers.
Meanwhile, this week Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis told ZDNet that Coalition policy on data retention and copyright infringement will be decided after the election, if the party forms government.
As is often the case, what we see from the Greens is a policy which most Australians would probably agree with, if they thought about it. The uproar with respect to PRISM and other spying programs coming out of the US, which it appears Australia has some involvement with, should spur Australian political parties into action on the issue. It’s a gross tragedy that of the major parties with elected representatives in the Federal Parliament, only the Greens have really tackled this area; and it’s even more of a tragedy that very little from this Greens policy will ever make it into law.