The Government has invited public comments on a cybercrime treaty that could open up individuals’ email and telecommunications data to international scrutiny.
The move followed Australia’s plan to become a party to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, as announced by former Foreign Minister Stephen Smith last April.
Australia complied with most aspects of the Convention, which was established in 2004 to facilitate collaboration among some 47 nations.
But the Government was concerned about some requirements, including the collection and storing of traffic data for criminal offences encompassed by the Convention.
The Convention criminalised hacking, illegal interception, data and systems interference, forgery, fraud, child pornography, and “the infringement of copyright and other related rights”.
Articles 16 to 21 required parties to enable domestic agencies to covertly monitor communications, collect traffic data in real-time, search and seize computers, and order the production of data.
Those articles also provided for the preservation of computer data – including traffic data – for up to 90 days, and the disclosure of traffic data so that service providers may be identified.
According to consultation documents published today (pdf), Australia intended to limit its real-time traffic data collection to criminal offences with a minimum penalty threshold of three years imprisonment, in line with domestic law.
The Department of Attorney-General Robert McClelland noted that while Australia was mostly compliant with the Convention’s obligations, legislative amendments were needed before it could accede.
It highlighted the Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Amendment Bill, an exposure draft of which was publicly released on 31 January.
“There is more we can do to ensure Australia is in the best position to address the range of cyber threats that confront us, both domestically and internationally,” McClelland stated.
“As cybercrime is a global issue, the Convention provides systems to facilitate international co-operation between signatory countries, as well as establishing procedures to make investigations more efficient.”