Trust in Australian tech firms compromised by new encryption laws: Frank Galbally

Australia encrypted data bill passes first hurdle

This makes Australia the first Western nation to breach the last bastion of online privacy, namely encryption.

The Access and Assistance Bill gives law enforcement the ability to force technology companies operating in Australia-including Facebook-owned WhatsApp, smartphone makers like Apple, and website owners-to provide access to encrypted messages, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. But in Australia, even that may not be enough.

The proposed laws could also scupper cooperation with U.S. authorities because they lack sufficient privacy safeguards, Dreyfus said.

Under the legislation, Canberra can compel local and global providers - including overseas communication giants such as Facebook and WhatsApp - to remove electronic protections, hide covert operations by government agencies, and help with access to devices or services. 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. Under the deal, the coalition government agreed to add amendments next year.

He also criticised Labor's decision to eventually support the law change.

"Failing to properly scrutinize this bill risks unintended consequences which may impact on the privacy and rights of law-abiding Australian citizens, the media and corporate sector", Arthur Moses, president-elect of the Law Council of Australia, said earlier this week. Attorney-General Christian Porter said it all depends on whether those amendments "genuinely reflect the recommendations of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security".

But the passage of the bill through Parliament was far from preordained.

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Australia had proposed the law in August this year, and it has now been passed by the country's federal parliament after lawmakers voted in favour of the Telecommunications Access and Assistance Bill late Thursday.

But there's no guarantee such amendments will be made now that the bill is already law.

The council was concerned the new laws could circumvent the need for the authorities to get a warrant before obtaining communications, while people could be detained in some circumstances without being allowed to contact a lawyer.

These can require communication providers to build new interception capabilities that can meet the requirements needed to be able to comply with Assistance Notices. USA law enforcement officials, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are again pushing for legislation that would somehow give authorities access to secure communications.

Canberra says the laws are needed to intercept communications between serious criminals, like terrorists and paedophiles.

The new Australian surveillance bill will allow the government to issue secret orders to companies to decrypt or assist with the decryption of encrypted communications. They say that both initiatives do not necessarily have to contradict each other. The law also creates new penalties for resisting or disclosing such notices, which critics have argued could prevent whistleblowing on whether the powers are being misused.

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