Revisions eyed for rushed Australia encryption law
08 December, 2018, 08:17 | Author: Eric Barnett
Critics say it is flawed and could undermine security across the Internet, jeopardising activities from online voting to market trading and data storage.
In a move that has been looming for more than a year, the Australian parliament has passed a law that will require technology companies to give law enforcement agencies access to encrypted communications, such as emails and texts.
The benignly named Assistance and Access Bill of 2018 amends various existing legislation to "establish frameworks for voluntary and mandatory industry assistance [italics own] to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in relation to encryption technologies..." In 2016, the US Justice Department clashed with Apple when the company refused to unlock an iPhone connected to a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
It differs from laws in China, Russia and Turkey, where services offering end-to-end encryption are banned.
Australia was a major driver of a statement agreed to at the Group of 20 leaders' summit in Germany a year ago that called on the technology industry to provide "lawful and non-arbitrary access to available information" needed to protect against terrorist threats.
The bill reportedly passed after Labour ministers agreed to do so at "the eleventh hour".
Government senate leader Mathias Cormann said the coalition would comply with Labor's condition.
But the nation's top legal society, the Law Council of Australia, said on Friday that the laws had been "rammed" through the parliament with inadequate consideration.
It followed a filibuster to prevent passage of a bill to help sick refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.
"We think that the bill does need to go forward but we offer to let it go forward without the amendments that are needed, without the amendments that are required to make it conform to the agreement reached between the government and Labor, provided the government agrees next - at the very next sitting day of the parliament to pass the amendments that we say are needed", Dreyfus said at the press conference.
But there's no guarantee such amendments will be made now that the bill is already law.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the Morrison government would "consider" amendments in line with the recommendations of a joint parliamentary committee that inquired into the bill.
Australia may not be one of Apple's biggest markets, but that doesn't mean that this new law might not cause problems. Under the proposed powers, technology companies could be forced to help decrypt communications on popular messaging apps, or even build new functionality to help police access data.
A controversial bill allowing spies and police to snoop on the encrypted communications of suspected terrorists and criminals was passed in Australia on Thursday, as tech giants warned of wide-ranging implications for global cybersecurity.
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