Daily Management Review

New Australian Law, Giving Police Power To Break Online Encryption, Criticised By Tech Companies


12/07/2018




New Australian Law, Giving Police Power To Break Online Encryption, Criticised By Tech Companies
Global tech companies have expressed serious concerns about data privacy risks over the new Australian regulation that grants power to government agencies to demand information within encrypted messaging services such as iMessage and WhatsApp.
 
Australian lawmakers last Thursday passed the Telecommunications Access and Assistance Bill. According to the argument placed by the government, this new legislation would help security agencies to deal with and investigate serious criminal activities such as terrorism and child sex related crimes.
 
This has been opposed by tech companies and civil liberties groups who argue that the regulation grants dangerous overarching powers to the security agencies that would have a significant impact on a wide variety of businesses and their customers.
 
Ben McConaghy, a Facebook spokesman, told the media that the impact of the new regulation would have "far-reaching consequences" in terms of privacy and security of encrypted platforms such as WhatsApp and Google as well as device manufacturers such as Apple, Microsoft and Samsung.
 
The law raised "the prospect of introducing systemic weaknesses that could put Australians' data security at risk," said the Digital Industry Group (DIGI), a tech industry association.
 
"It is also deeply concerning that the minimum safeguards Australians should expect under such unprecedented new powers — judicial oversight and a warrant-based system — are absent," the group said in a statement.
 
The regular users of the apps would be put to at risk because of the regulation and could even make the large global tech companies sceptical of being active and doing business in Australia, say privacy advocates.
 
"I think it's right for governments to be tackling the issue of how to do effective investigations in the digital environment," Daniel Weitzner, director of the Internet Policy Research Initiative at MIT, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) earlier this week. "What is risky is when government puts the interest of investigators over the safety of everyone who uses the internet and mobile phones."
 
Because of the costs and compromises that would be required to meet the demands of the new regulations relating to encryption rules, tech firms would be deterred from operating in Australia.
 
"If a company that does business globally is suddenly told by the Australian government that it has to weaken its security, then it may think twice about whether it's worth being in the Australian market," Weitzner said.
 
 
Apple had argued that it is "precisely because of [criminal] threats that we support strong encryption" in a seven-page letter which it released in October this year and criticizing the then proposed legislation.
 
Apple had warned about the implications of the new regulation on weakening of cybersecurity in Australia and beyond and the possibility of its abuse because of a lack of oversight. Apple had argued that encryption could be weakened by future government using the regulation and termed the regulation to be "broad and vague."
 
"In the last several years they've been ... going blind or going deaf because of encryption, the use of modern technologies," The Australian government's national security adviser, Alastair MacGibbon, said in an interview with the ABC.
 
But it would still be possible for people to keep their online communication hidden from security authorities if they wanted to, said Weitzner.
 
"A determined criminal, or a determined terrorist, is certainly going to be able to go out onto the internet today, and get for free, services that will evade the capabilities that this law is designed to help the police work around," he said.
 
(Source:www.kimt.com)






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