Australia's parliament passed a bill on Thursday which would force large technology firms, including Alphabet Inc's Google, Facebook, Apple, Signal, and more to give police access to encrypted data, one of the most far-reaching requirements imposed by a western country which privacy rights groups say creates a dangerous precedent, according to Deutsche Welle. 

The tech firms opposed the bill on the grounds Australia's legislation could be an example for other nations to follow suit. 

The legislation is set to become law before the end of 2018.

“Let’s just make Australians safe over Christmas,” opposition Labor party leader Bill Shorten said. 

The bill was passed earlier on Thursday by the lower house of parliament and was scheduled to be debated in the upper Senate, where Labor initially said it was going to make amendments.

But Labor said it was changing course on its reservations and would pass the bill on the grounds the coalition agreed to hear its amendments next year.

“We will pass the legislation, inadequate as it is, so we can give our security agencies some of the tools they say they need,” Shorten said.

"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, a body representing the legal profession, said earlier this week.

The bill would implement fines up to A$10 million ($7.3 million) for institutions and jail time for individuals who fail to hand over data linked to suspected illegal activities. 

Australia will become one of the first countries to impose broad access requirements on technology firms after a number of intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world have lobbied for the ability. 

The Five Eyes intelligence network, including Australia, the United States, Canada, Britain, and New Zealand have all said national security was at risk since authorities could not accurately monitor the communications of terrorism suspects.

Australia's government said the laws were necessary to target any militant attacks, organized crime, but security agencies would still need to pursue warrants to access personal data. 

Technology companies argue the law would establish a backdoor to users' personal data and creating tools for law enforcement to use would end up weakening security for everyone.

“This legislation is out of step with surveillance and privacy legislation in Europe and other countries that have strong national security concerns,” the Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI), a group comprised of Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon and Twitter, said in a released statement on Thursday. 

“Several critical issues remain unaddressed in this legislation, most significantly the prospect of introducing systemic weaknesses that could put Australians’ data security at risk,” it said.

Some privacy experts said the Five-Eyes intelligence sharing policy could also raise concerns. 

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

Photo: AP / Richard Drew
New Google Pixel 3 smartphones are displayed in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, added: 2018-10-09
Photo: AP / Mark Schiefelbein
Photo: AP / Wilfredo Lee
In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, photo a Facebook start page is shown on a smartphone in Surfside, Fla., added: 2019-04-01
comments powered by Disqus

Related News

Australia to compel technology firms to provide access to encrypted missives

SYDNEY: Australia on Friday proposed new laws to compel companies such as US social media giant Facebook and device manufacturer Apple to provide security agencies access...

The Himalayan 2017-07-14

How a new Australian law can affect the crypto and blockchain world

On December 6 last year, the Australian parliament voted through a law that would mandate backdoors in all encrypted communications. Aimed at combating terrorism, the...

A Bit of News 2019-01-30

Australia: Undermining Encryption Creates Unacceptable Security Risks

Weakening internet users' privacy to aid law enforcement would likely do more harm than good. An Australian parliamentary inquiry on emerging information and communications...

Public Technologies 2018-02-21

Australia’s Prime Minister says laws of mathematics don’t apply in his country

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is trying to give the Australian government access to encrypted messaging apps. And not even the laws of mathematics will stand...

Sacramento Bee 2017-07-16

Looking Down Under for a Back Door

For years, U.S. law enforcement has tried, and failed, to convince Congress to require tech companies to provide backdoor access to encrypted data and communications. But...

Slate 2018-10-05

Protecting Your Security and Rights Online

(New York) – Human Rights Watch released an interactive online game today to help people understand how important strong encryption is to everyone’s security in the digital...

Human Rights 2018-12-12

Coalition calls on Google and Facebook to get on side with encryption bill

The Morrison government has criticised Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies for opposing its planned encryption laws, saying the internet giants have a responsibility to...

The Guardian 2018-10-10
developed with YouTube
Dear Law Enforcement: Learn to love encryption!

Dear Law Enforcement: Learn to love encryption!

Smartphone encryption has been a controversial topic with law enforcement, grabbing headlines around the world. Watch to learn why encryption actually protects innocent civilians and makes society safer. Also check out the companion infographic:
Encryption: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Encryption: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Strong encryption poses problems for law enforcement, is weakening it worth the risks it presents? It’s…complicated. Connect with Last Week Tonight online... Subscribe to the Last Week Tonight YouTube channel for more almost news as it almost happens: Find Las
DEBATE on Law Enforcement vs. Smartphone Encryption

DEBATE on Law Enforcement vs. Smartphone Encryption

Is FBI “Going Dark” or in a Golden Age of Surveillance? The recent decision by Apple and Google to enable encryption by default on new iPhones and Android smartphones, so that only the user can unlock his or her phone, has led to strong complaints from law enforcement agencies arguing that the move
Experts gather at encryption summit to discuss privacy, law enforcement, national security

Experts gather at encryption summit to discuss privacy, law enforcement, national security

FOX 26 News reporter Greg Groogan
Deep Dive: Privacy and Security—What’s the Right Balance?

Deep Dive: Privacy and Security—What’s the Right Balance?

The mounting tension between privacy and security hit another inflection point when the FBI filed a suit against Apple earlier this year. Although the highest-profile case to date was dropped after the FBI was able to access the iPhone used by a San Bernardino shooter, the larger debate between tech
Smartphone Data Encryption: what's protected, what's not, and how it effects law enforcement

Smartphone Data Encryption: what's protected, what's not, and how it effects law enforcement

Maybe you\'ve heard about the new smartphone data encryption technology introduced by Apple and Google this September. And maybe you\'ve heard it is raising some concerns about law enforcement, as encryption could lock police out of criminal evidence on smartphones.... But there\'s no denying this is
FBI Chief Joins Law Enforcement Gripes On iPhone Encryption

FBI Chief Joins Law Enforcement Gripes On iPhone Encryption

FBI Director James Comey joined the chorus of law enforcement officials expressing concern over Apple and Google\'s new approach to encryption. Follow Jay Strubberg: See more at Sources: Getty Images
Law Enforcement Concerned About Smartphone Encryption

Law Enforcement Concerned About Smartphone Encryption

The FBI director said he\'s worried that so-called unlockable systems for smartphones will impede investigations. For more New Jersey news, visit NJTV News online at
Safe and Sorry – Terrorism & Mass Surveillance

Safe and Sorry – Terrorism & Mass Surveillance

Sources: Terrorist surveillance program: Original press release: Assessment of potential effect of surveillance measures if implemented before 9/11: Interview with FBI director Robert Mueller: FBI investigations of immigrants: \"NSEERS effect\" report