Australia passes law forcing tech firms to hand over encrypted data

Australia encrypted data bill passes first hurdle

Australia Just Passed a Draconian Anti-Encryption Bill That Will Create a Headache for Big Tech

"There is an extraterritorial dimension to it, where for example the United States would be able to make. a request directly to Australia to get information from Facebook or a tech company", said Queensland University of Technology's technology regulation researcher Monique Mann.

However, this proviso is one based on good faith and doesn't necessitate that any of the Opposition's proposed limitations - such as reducing the power to only federal level law enforcement - will be enacted by the government come the new year.

The laws were rushed through parliament on its final day of the year.

The government says the new law will help the police respond to terrorism - and, all other crimes - more quickly.

Both chambers of the Australian Parliament have passed a new anti-encryption bill today that will allow the government to force technology companies to add encryption backdoors to their products.

The Australian encryption rule could also deter top tech firms from operating in Australia going forward. This may already be possible if a service provider uses a form of encryption that allows them to view a user's message.

However, it isn't clear how such measures could be put into practice, since services that provide end-to-end encryption, such as WhatsApp, can in theory only be read by those sending and receiving the message, with the service provider itself locked out. "Those backdoors will be found and exploited by others, making everyone less secure", he said.

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"I will fight to get those encryption laws passed", Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra after Dreyfus spoke.

Technology companies have opposed efforts to create what they see as a back door to users' data, a stand-off that was propelled into the public arena by Apple's refusal to unlock an iPhone used by an attacker in a 2015 shooting in California.

"This ensures that our national security and law enforcement agencies have the modern tools they need, with appropriate authority and oversight, to access the encrypted conversations of those who seek to do us harm."
The government faced a once-in-a-century defeat if the bill had progressed to the House of Representatives. Digital rights advocates are highly critical of Australia's move, saying it lacks sufficient checks and balances. "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. A parliamentary committee examining the legislation did not release its report until late on Wednesday.

Controversial laws rushed through the Australian parliament on Thursday came under attack by security and privacy advocates in Australia and overseas on Friday.

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

Culnane questioned on Twitter prior to the bill's passing "how many multinational software and security companies will have to consider restricting access to their codebase and servers from Australian subsidiaries to protect the integrity of their systems".

However, experts say the full implications are unclear and much uncertainty remains.

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