Proposed new powers giving law enforcement agencies the ability to commandeer social media accounts could have a detrimental impact on democratic freedom, human rights advocates have warned.
The proposed laws would expand the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission's ability to disrupt crime on the dark web by amending existing surveillance legislation.
The controversial bill, first introduced last year, attracted controversy from human rights and privacy advocates for its broad-reaching powers before it was referred to a Parliamentary committee by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
The bill would grant the law enforcement agencies with three new powers - the ability to obtain data disruption warrants, monitor network activity and to covertly take control of online accounts, including social media sites.
Human Rights Law Centre legal expert Kieran Pender, who will appear at the bill's public hearing on Wednesday morning, said the bill's wide application meant anyone with a WhatsApp account, criminal or not, could be watched.
"These sweeping surveillance powers intrude on people's privacy and have a chilling effect on the exercise of political rights," Mr Pender said.
"The Morrison government has failed to demonstrate that there is a compelling need for yet another increase in state surveillance. This bill should be withdrawn from parliament or substantially rewritten."
The proposed legislation has been criticised for not being proportionate to the actual threat presented by serious and organised cybercrime and the bar to trigger the investigative powers being too low.
Two of the warrants, for example, require the offence being committed carry a maximum penalty of only three years' imprisonment.
Instead, the bill needed to increase the warrant threshold substantially, Mr Pender said, and limit the scope of investigation to only those involved in the criminal offence to address some of these concerns.
Mr Pender warned without these changes being made and appropriate human rights protections introduced, the laws could impact not only whistleblowers and journalists but even those who hadn't committed criminal offences.
"It might be easy to be desensitised to the creeping increase in state surveillance, particularly with the Morrison government and its predecessors often ramming these laws through parliament with little opposition or scrutiny," Mr Pender said.
"But every new surveillance law has a democratic cost. We must remain vigilant against the rise of surveillance in this country."
The committee will also hear from the Commonwealth Ombudsman and Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Dutton wrote in his referral letter in December he expected the bill to be reintroduced before the end of May.
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