Revisions eyed for rushed Australia encryption law, Australia/NZ News & Top Stories

Irving Hamilton
December 8, 2018

These can require communication providers to use an interception technology they already have. "Today's amendments have done little to clarify specifics around the potential power that the Bill could give government and law enforcement over digital privacy and security", she said.

The new law, which critics say was rushed through Parliament, gives the government broad powers to request user data from tech companies.

The government has said the proposed laws are necessary to counter attacks by armed groups and organised crime, and security agencies would need to seek warrants to access personal data.

The legislation thrusts Australia to the heart of a global tug of war between tech companies and governments over privacy and security.

"Despite the pro-encryption passions in the government, Australians are showing their concerns about losing their online privacy by turning to VPNs". End-to-end encryption allows only the sender and recipient to view a message, preventing it from being unscrambled by the service provider. "Those backdoors will be found and exploited by others, making everyone less secure", he said.

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US law enforcement officials, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are again pushing for legislation that would somehow give authorities access to secure communications.

Experts such as the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to privacy Joseph Cannataci have described the bill as "poorly conceived" and "equally as likely to endanger security as not".

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"The whole question all along has been, whether by targeting an individual user, they are accidentally jeopardizing everybody else's security", said Vanessa Teague, an expert in cryptography at the University of Melbourne.

"Several critical issues remain unaddressed in this legislation, most significantly the prospect of introducing systemic weaknesses that could put Australians' data security at risk", DIGI said. The debate at the moment is what constitutes a systemic weakness. "This has the potential for Australian tech firms to have no clue whether they were even subject to an order", the foundation's Nate Cardozo told the BBC.

"Ministers and Attorneys General also noted that encryption can severely undermine public safety efforts by impeding lawful access to the content of communications during investigations into serious crimes, including terrorism". A parliamentary committee examining the legislation did not release its report until late on Wednesday.

Tech companies will have to help authorities look at encrypted messages before Christmas after Labor agreed to pass controversial new laws at the last minute. Amid protests from companies such as Facebook and Google, the government and main opposition struck a deal on Tuesday that should see the legislation passed by parliament this week.

"We're prepared to let it go forward on that basis knowing there's more work to be done", Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters on Thursday night.

These are, apparently, voluntary requests, which companies can comply with or turn down without the risk of being penalized.

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