AFP to scrutinise telecommunications requests

AFP badge

PwC Australia has been commissioned to conduct an independent audit into requests to telecommunications carriers made by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) under Section 180(2) of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cwlth) (the Act).

The AFP commissioned this audit after identifying compliance issues, some dating back to 2007. The identified issues relate to record-keeping, authorisations and reporting of requests under Section 180(2) of the Act. On 24 January 2020, the AFP self-reported to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The AFP undertook an examination of historic documents and records to estimate the extent of the compliance issues. It was identified that:

  • The requests were made by ACT Policing and related to the potential identification of a mobile device location during an investigation.
    • The location request only provides, if available, a general area, such as several streets, or broad vicinity, such as a suburb.
    • The location requests can only be made for investigation into serious offences or offences punishable by imprisonment for at least three years. Offences that meet these definitions include murder, kidnapping, drug trafficking, terrorism, aggravated robbery and firearms offences.
    • The location requests cannot provide metadata or private communication on the mobile device.
  • The records and applications were not included in submissions by the AFP for annual reporting to the Minister for Home Affairs.
    • This resulted in the AFP not discharging their reporting obligations in respect to these requests, nor presenting requests for Ombudsman inspection.

The AFP has identified and taken corrective action to ensure legislative compliance, including appropriate recording, authorisation and future reporting.

The AFP has worked with the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office to establish this agreed method of assurance through audit and inspection by PwC Australia.

The independent audit is expected to be completed by June 2020.

The AFP understands the Commonwealth Ombudsman intends to commence an own-motion investigation into this matter.


Media enquiries:  ACT Police Media: (02) 5126 9070