Australia Wants To Read Employee Emails

    April 14, 2008

Employers in Australia may soon be able to read employees emails without consent under new anti-terror laws being proposed.

The Australian government says the proposal is aimed at preventing a cyber attack on national infrastructure like the stock exchange, electricity grid or transportation system.

"We want to make sure that they are safe from terrorist attack," said Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, according to the AFP. "Part of doing that is making sure we’ve got the right powers to ensure that we can tell if there’s something unusual going on in the system."

The proposal has caused concern among civil liberty groups. "They are more likely to be used for eavesdropping and corporate witchhunts rather than protecting Australia from some kind of cyber attack," said Dale Clapperton from Electronic Frontiers Australia.

The governments current Telecommunications Act only allows for employees emails to be monitored by security agencies.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, said the laws needed to be extended to include private companies to protect major infrastructure from a cyber attack. Such an attack could" reap far greater economic damage than would be the case of a physical (terrorist) attack," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"At least 90 percent of networks exist outside government, but there’s no powers for corporate network supervisors to intercept such communications unless they have specific authority from the employee," he said.

McClelland said he would meet with privacy experts and workers unions before introducing the laws, which the government wants in place by the middle of 2009.