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ATO casts loving eyes over cybercrime intercept powers

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Hot on the heels of the passage of Australia’s Cybercrime Amendment Bill – which expands Australia’s interception regime in an effort to bring it into line with European practices – the Australian Taxation Office is reportedly looking for more interception powers as well.

If this report in The Australian is accurate, it appears the ATO is looking over the new cybercrime laws with longing eyes and, like a fashionista at a Prada store, murmuring greedily “I want one just like that”.

The Cybercrime Amendment Act, which passed the Senate last night with support from both major parties, is notable for two things: introducing a regime by which authorities can ask carriers to start intercepting and recording traffic in advance of a warrant; and allowing other countries to request that intercepts be set up.

In domestic cases, the new bill allows agencies to request communications be stored, either covering a single stipulated day or for a 30-day period, for later access if a warrant is granted. The same requests can be made in response to an international request made via the AFP (if it agrees that the request is required).

According to The Australian, the ATO covets similar capabilities, asking for the ability to access information captured in “real time” in tax investigations that don’t meet the bar set for a criminal investigation.

If, of course, the matter raised by the ATO were relating to crimes, it could have the storage request made by the AFP rather than doing so on its own behalf – so it appears that what the taxman wants is similar standing under the legislation to that held by the law enforcement agencies.

The Register notes that the Cybercrime Amendment Bill is not a universal data retention regime. That legislation has been delayed at least until after the next election. ®

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