Australia suspected to have PRISM data: Ludlam

Scott Ludlam plans to introduce a bill to parliament today to ensure law enforcement agencies only access citizens’ private data under a warrant

Greens senator Scott Ludlam believes the US National Security Agency (NSA) has handed information it has collected from its PRISM system to the Australian government.

PRISM is an initiative by the NSA that allegedly sources data from a number of major tech firms for surveillance, including Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

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Apple has now revealed it received between 4000 and 5000 requests for customer data from US law enforcement between 1 December and 31 May.

Facebook and Microsoft have also disclosed data about law enforcement data requests.

Microsoft said it received between 6000 and 7000 requests for the six months ending December 31, 2012 while Facebook said it received between 9000 and 10,000 in the same period.

So far the Australian government has refused to confirm or deny whether US intelligence agencies have shared information gleaned from PRISM with authorities in Australia.

“I think there’s a very strong suspicion that it is being handed across to Australian authorities in probably quite large volumes,” Ludlam told Radio National on Tuesday.

“The Australian government and opposition are absolutely fast asleep – simply pretending that this isn’t happening … It’s like they’re all on some kind of tranquilisers.”

Ludlam plans to introduce a bill to parliament today to ensure law enforcement agencies only access citizens’ private data under a warrant.

“We’re also putting a motion up in the Senate which the opposition will have a chance to wake from its slumber … and calling for the Attorney-General to make a statement to the parliament this week. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask,” Ludlam said.

A total of 293,501 requests for telecommunications data were made in 2011-12 without a warrant. Ludlam said he believes the number of requests would drop if every request for metadata – the time of a call, the person called and the duration of a call – required a warrant.

Without a warrant, Ludlam said this information is being “vacuumed” up by the government under the guise of terrorism-related crimes.

“Very little of it has anything at all to do with terrorism and the Telecommunications Interception and Access annual report where these figures are sourced shows that. These are being used by local governments and the RSPCA and policing agencies all over the place,” he said.

“For legitimate purposes of fighting serious crime, I have no problem at all with that material being accessed – that’s why we grant these powers to ASIO.”

Ludlam said one of the “creepiest” aspects of PRISM-like technology is that activists and people who occupy Wall Street are also being tracked, not just suspected criminals.

“That’s where it starts to get very, very creepy and grows from being a national security issue into an authoritarian issue and a police state issue and that’s why this has sparked such an enormous concern overseas,” he said.

“So we’re still waiting for some signs of concern from the Australian government. They’re not going to be able to pretend that this isn’t happening.”

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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