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Legislation giving security companies full access to company employees' emails claimed as defense for Australian national security

There exists a fine line between privacy and security, with nations pointing the spotlight on the looming threat of terrorism. Whether cyber or physical, governments are taking privacy laws into their own hands, changing the rules of the game to how they see fit. The latest attempt is by the Australian government with legislation giving companies full power to scan employee emails and instant messages without their consent.

Opponents of the proposed legislation cry out, claiming it to be an unprecedented and unjustifiable intrusion on civil liberties, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. Attorney-General Robert McClelland claims this is a reasonable trade-off, claiming growing concerns over national security.

The government is primarily focusing on cyber attacks at the moment, given the economic catastrophe that would ensue if a cyber attack were to happen on the nation’s critical infrastructure. Speaking to the Herald, McClelland claimed that an attack on the nation’s economic infrastructure "would reap far greater economic damage than would be the case of a physical [terrorist] attack".

The proposed 1-year legislation would only allow security agencies access to Australian company employee emails without consent. This act is only the first step in the government’s plan to tighten cyber security. Future legislation will be more oriented towards companies to keep their networks safe.

"At least 90 per cent of networks exist outside government but there's no powers for corporate network supervisors to intercept such communications unless they have specific authority from the employee," he told the Herald. "It's unquestionable that it's necessary from time to time for network supervisors to open emails addressed to people to identify viruses and the like …There needs to be protocols and guidelines developed so companies can protect their own networks.”

McClelland insists these measures are necessary, citing a cyber attack on the Estonian Government website resulting in a crash of its entire network last year.

Electronic Frontiers Australia Chairman, Dale Clapperton, is one of the opponents of the legislation, describing it as a tool allowing “fishing expeditions into employees' emails and computer use rather than being used to protect critical infrastructure," as well as allowing “corporate eavesdropping and witch-hunts.” He claims that employers can use the private information against employees.

There is no word on the legislation’s passing, but by the looks of it, it could be in effect within the next couple of months.

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By GhandiInstinct on 4/14/2008 9:02:41 PM , Rating: 1
First boycotting movies(Ken Park)

Then banning adult games or mature games


Who is behind this Australian government setting such communist laws?


By fake01 on 4/14/2008 9:31:41 PM , Rating: 3
Then banning adult games or mature games
What do you mean mature games, since when did Australia ban mature games? All PC and game stores I go to still sell mature games. And as for banning adult games, thats because you get kids at the age of 10 and even younger playing them cause they usually get their older brother/sister to buy them or their parents to get them. That or their older brother/sister might already have bought them and they play the game at their own accord. And frankly adult games ain't that fun imo.

Who is behind this Australian government setting such communist laws?
We have a new government now, its called the Rudd government cause Kevin Rudd now leads this country. And to be honest I think he's a lot better than Howard, but it may change in the future, he's still only fresh.

Don't know what country you live in, but Australia is by far one of the best, if not than is the best. I like to be safe than sorry. It has its cons, but its pro's far out way it.

By GhandiInstinct on 4/14/2008 9:32:53 PM , Rating: 2

By fake01 on 4/14/2008 9:42:29 PM , Rating: 2
What? I don't think any GTA game has been banned here. At least none that I know of. Last time I went to EB Games (2 months ago) they still had GTA3, Vice City, Vice City Stories, Liberty City Stories, GTA SA. I know this because my brother wanted to buy a GTA game so we went through the entire collection. Why on earth would we want to ban a game that hasn't come out yet?

By GhandiInstinct on 4/14/2008 11:41:10 PM , Rating: 2

The full game banned, had to be cut into censored version.

By fake01 on 4/15/2008 2:41:26 AM , Rating: 2
It's still packed with "strong violence, strong coarse language, drug and sexual references"
I'm now curious to know whats been cut out of it. Either way I can always import. Games over sea's are usually over 50% cheaper anyway, just add the shipping cost and it will still likely be cheaper than what you get it here for.

By Some1ne on 4/14/2008 9:55:14 PM , Rating: 2
And as for banning adult games, thats because you get kids at the age of 10 and even younger playing them cause they usually get their older brother/sister to buy them or their parents to get them.

That's no reason for the government to go and ban something. Mandate parenting classes maybe (yes, if you are a parent with a 10 year old kid who you don't want playing "adult" games, then it's your job to make sure that they don't, not the government's, and not anybody else's...I don't know why so many people have so much trouble understanding that), but certainly not ban the controversial material. There are a number of complex free-speech issues involved, which an outright ban just does not address, and long story short, it is just plain not okay for a government to be going around and censoring things.

By fake01 on 4/14/2008 11:32:26 PM , Rating: 2
yes, if you are a parent with a 10 year old kid who you don't want playing "adult" games, then it's your job to make sure that they don't, not the government's, and not anybody else's...I don't know why so many people have so much trouble understanding that
I totally agree with you. It does frustrate me that you can get bad parents who let their kids do whatever they want, than when something finally gets banned because of it it's us normal people who miss out on the fun.

I've spent most of my life growing up in an area(s) where theres nothing but bad parenting all over the place so I know how bad things can get, and it is understandable of why the government would ban things. But it really does frustrate me. Most of the parents I've seen in my younger days ONLY had children because they like to cheat on the system and get extra money without having to get a job, and then they let their children do whatever they want. And theres nothing anybody can do about it.

Now they are planning on closing down pubs, making pubs that are still open close at 5pm instead of 10-11pm and prices on alcohol are now set to go up all because you get stupid people who like to get pissed and bash everyone up, cause chaos and vandalize. And normal people like myself have to suffer now that we can't go out with a couple mates to have a good nights drink and a game of pool.

By Some1ne on 4/14/2008 8:03:40 PM , Rating: 2
So who is spying on whom, and when? The article's headline made it sound like the Australian government was planning on being able to intercept any e-mail sent by any "employee" in Australia. However the text makes it sound like only "security agencies" will have snooping abilities, and only against their own employees, if I'm reading it right. Or is it that the security agencies, which are run by the government, are being granted the ability to look at the e-mails of any government employee?

If that's the case, then what's the big deal? Every employer I've worked for (in the U.S., admittedly, and only for private companies) has reserved the right to monitor the usage of the company's network resources, up to and including e-mail and IM traffic. I doubt the U.S. government is any different, either. So as long as the monitoring powers are not being extended to the employees' use of non-employer-controlled networks (i.e. if the government employee goes home, and fires off an e-mail using their personal ISP, that e-mail should be safe from snooping), then what's the problem? I'm a big fan of privacy, but there's no reason to assume that the things you do over your employer's network will be kept private. That's what personal ISP's are for.

RE: Confused...
By oab on 4/14/2008 8:21:27 PM , Rating: 2
I assume the government can already read government employees email.

I think what this does is allows the government to read private company employee emails without the employees consent. I don't know if that means that they would need a court order for the company to turn over the email, and the employee would have no say, or if they can just walk up and say "we want all of xxxx employees emails" no warrant needed.

If there is no warrant needed, that's a problem, if they need one, I don't see what the deal is. All of those emails "belong" to the company anyway, made using company resources with the understanding that the company "owns" all work-related communications (and that all resources should ONLY be used for work-related things).

I don't see what the big deal is, assuming a court order is needed, but if one isn't needed, then it's bad.

But as a non-terrorist speaking, what sort of moron would use a company email account to plot crimes? With the hundreds of free email services out there (with anonymous proxy servers also), would anyone really be that stupid?

It's like emailing "" saying "I'm going to assassinate you", only an idiot would do that (and yet people do it I'm sure)

RE: Confused...
By JustTom on 4/14/2008 8:34:50 PM , Rating: 2
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
COMPANIES will be able to intercept the emails and internet communications of their employees without their consent under new laws being considered by the Federal Government to protect the nation's critical infrastructure from a cyber attack.

So it would seem that any employer could snoop any employee's email and internet communication.

The previous law, the Telecommunications Act, allows only security agencies to monitor email with employee consent. The Aussie government is seeking to amend that to broaden the employer's abilities to monitor email.

RE: Confused...
By Bladen on 4/15/2008 4:53:00 AM , Rating: 2
The state of NSW already allows employers to monitor emails and other computer activity if written notice is provided. Or no written notice provided if a Covert Surveillance Authority is obtained.

Curious to know
By fake01 on 4/14/2008 9:23:23 PM , Rating: 2
(Without properly reading the article)

When they talk about spying on peoples emails are they talking about a persons email account on the companies server or are they talking about day-to-day email accounts such as hotmail, gmail and the likes?

If they are just spying on an email account on the companies server than I wouldn't mind cause I'd never really use it, but if they are spying on a persons personal email account than thats invading privacy.

RE: Curious to know
By omnicronx on 4/14/2008 9:40:03 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't mind cause I'd never really use it,

Really though who would use their company email to plan a terrorist in the first place.

RE: Curious to know
By Hare on 4/15/2008 12:09:56 AM , Rating: 2
... and wouldn't use strong encryption.

A fine line just got crossed
By wrack on 4/14/2008 8:00:42 PM , Rating: 4
This is so crap. I live in Australia and government has better issues to take care of then to monitor people's emails for "National Security".

By amanojaku on 4/14/2008 7:49:48 PM , Rating: 2
I'm on the fence about this issue. I agree that all networks should be secured for many reasons, but I also believe in an individual's right to privacy. An employee of a company is still an individual, and it would be an eerie feeling to know that everything you do could be monitored. Then there's the issue of a company's right to privacy, which goes out the window if this plan is enforced.

Security or privacy: choices like these suck.

Encrypt your data...
By WTurner on 4/14/2008 11:17:16 PM , Rating: 2
Encrypt it...

By Reclaimer77 on 4/15/2008 5:01:56 PM , Rating: 2
.. were used by opponents of the United States Patriot Act. Now, years later, not a single persons civil liberties have been violated by it. In fact several independent investigations have not only determined there were no violations of peoples rights, but there has not even been any filed complaints of rights being violated because of said Act.

Democracies are not meant to be suicide pacts. Its healthy to object to measures like this, but not at the cost of security. Obviously, for whatever reason, officials in Australia have reason to be concerned. And I applaud this effort. Who am I to sit here, thousands of miles away, and condem them for it ?

When I think of how easily it could of been for us to prevent 9/11, well, it just breaks my heart. Measures like this can go a LONG way. And honestly, this violates nobodies rights. Using the workplace for private emails isn't an inalienable human right people. This has nothing to do with " civil liberties ", as many of you are stating.

And yes, this feels wrong. It doesn't feel good. And you know what, the hard decisions ; the real tough ones, rarely do. But making choices like this has to be about more than idealism and feelings. They are too important.

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