Federal police have begun using new powers allowing investigators to covertly overtake social media accounts just months after coming into effect but privacy experts have warned their use is shrouded in secrecy.
The Australian Federal Police has admitted it has utilised the three new warrants, which allow them to disrupt data, monitor network activity and take control of online accounts, but won't provide further information due to secrecy provisions surrounding them.
It comes as AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw confirmed investigations into multiple "specific threats" against Australian politicians were being undertaken following violent anti-vaccine protests in Melbourne rallying against Victorian Premier Dan Andrews.
The laws, which passed Parliament in August, grant the powers to both the federal police force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to take on potentially illegal activity occurring on social media and encrypted messaging software.
While the investigation warrants are reserved for "serious crime", the legislation defines relevant offences as crimes punishable by a minimum jail time of three years or more.
But while the national law enforcement agency confirmed the warrants had already been used, it would not provide any further information in relation to how it was used and in what context.
"The act prohibits the communication or publication of information relating to the application or use of any warrant, except in certain circumstances such as in proceedings in open court or for mandatory reporting purposes," an AFP spokesperson said.
A security parliamentary joint committee recommended the laws be passed in early August but with increased oversight, robust authorisation processes, and a review every three years to ensure "community confidence" in the authorities.
It suggested both law enforcement agencies provide the committee with unclassified reports on the offences prompting the warrants.
Senior Deakin University privacy expert Monique Mann warned the laws were passed without first including any of these additional oversight measures.
It now means information surrounding its use, and whether it is effective in operation, will not be publicly released.
"There are real issues of transparency, which makes it hard to assess what exactly the powers are being used for, and if indeed, their exercise is consistent with the rationale supporting their introduction," Dr Mann said.
Commissioner Kershaw said the police was "very grateful" for the new powers but said they had been operated in conjunction with national security agency peers, including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
The safety of MPs has been in the spotlight for weeks after the brutal murder of British MP David Amess during a meeting with constituents.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said she had received concerns by members within the government over their personal safety and the safety of their families in the weeks since.
The AFP head said the powers would help keep those in public office safe.
"I think they're some of the best powers that a police force can have when it comes to dealing with whether it be encrypted communications or dealing with the dark web in particular," Commissioner Kershaw said on Monday morning.
"We will be using all of those powers available to us to make sure we prevent any kind of attack or harm to our Parliamentarians, and also making sure that we can map out these groups."
But Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer Kieran Pender said it was important these legislative responses to violence didn't become overreaches.
The laws needed to be coupled human rights and privacy considerations, he said, repeating that their passing into law was "a democratic cost".
"The Identify and Disrupt laws were rushed through Parliament in less than 24 hours, as the Morrison government disregarded many of the bipartisan recommendations of Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security," he said.
"These unprecedented new digital powers can now be used by law enforcement without adequate safeguards and oversight.
"By enacting wide-ranging surveillance and secrecy laws in the absence of federal human rights laws, successive governments have jeopardised the rights and freedoms of everyday Australians.
"Australia urgently needs better protections for fundamental human rights."