In the shadow of a controversial government program to filter the Web content that Australian Internet users can access, the Australian government has proposed another new regulation allowing police there to hack into any computer in the country, covertly, to spy on users.

The measure would allow warrants for ‘covert searches’  to be issued in investigations involving any Australian criminal offense punishable by seven or more years imprisonment.

The kicker is, police could apply to have the ‘searches’ kept secret for up to three years. And police would also have the power to ‘search’ any other computers at the same location, on the same network.

“This could include cracking codes and searching computers for evidence of child porn, drug running, and money laundering,” Premier Nathan Rees explained.

The Australian move comes in the wake of news earlier this year that the UK government had joined a European Union initiative which would extend police powers to allow remote searches of computers.

Needless (perhaps) to say, civil rights advocates both in Europe and Australia are mounting efforts to oppose the new regulations which they claim amount to a wholesale invasion of privacy.

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