Speaking at a Progress 2015 conference in Melbourne via satellite from Moscow, where he has sought asylum, Mr Snowden said Australia’s role in government surveillance resembled monitoring in the UK.
“Australia’s role in mass surveillance around the world is similar to the UK and the Tempora program, which is what’s called a rolling internet proffer,” he said.
“Basically they use local authorities such as this metadata program that’s been passed in Australia to collect everyone’s communications in advance of criminal suspicion.”
While acknowledging that governments must take steps to protect people from terrorism, he said the sort of metadata collection programs being operated by governments were at odds with free Western society.
“This is dangerous,” he said.
“This is not things that governments have ever traditionally been empowered to claim for themselves as authorities.
“And to have that change recently … is a radical departure from the operation of traditional liberal societies around the world.”
In March, the Federal Government’s data retention laws were passed. They require telecommunications companies to retain their customers phone and computer metadata for two years.
“What this means is they are watching everybody all the time. They’re collecting information and they’re just putting it in buckets that they can then search through not only locally, not only in Australia, but they can then share this with foreign intelligences services.
“They can trawl through this information in the same way. Whether or not you’re doing anything wrong you’re being watched.”
###Metadata collection won’t prevent terrorism: Snowden
Security agencies can access metadata with a warrant if they can make a case it is “reasonably necessary” to an investigation. Journalists have some protections under the laws, but Mr Snowden said those amount to very little.
“Under these mandatory metadata laws you can immediately see who journalists are contacting, from which you can derive who their sources are.”
Mr Snowden told the conference in Melbourne terrorist attacks in the US have not been prevented by the collection of metadata.
“Nine times out of 10 when you see someone on the news who’s engaged in some sort of radical jihadist activity, these are people who had a long record,” he said.
“The reason these attacks happened is not because we didn’t have enough surveillance, it’s because we had too much.”
The conference was told there is more to come from the National Security Agency (NSA) files and that Australia would not be spared.
It comes on the same day the NSA practices Mr Snowden helped expose were declared illegal by a US federal court.
The court ruled storing telephone metadata on such a massive scale was a violation of the Patriot Act.
Mr Snowden said the decision showed the government cannot abuse the trust of its citizens without being held to account.
“The purpose of the free press in society is to do exactly this sort of thing — to act as an adversary against the government on behalf of the public.”
Learn more here http://www.australiannationalreview.com/edward-snowden-australias-data-retention-laws-dangerous/