Gimme Gimme

Australia Wants to Force Tech Companies to Decrypt User Messages

Its anti-encryption bill could erode internet users' privacy.

12. 6. 18 by Kristin Houser
Tag Hartman-Simkins
Image by Tag Hartman-Simkins

All Ears

What internet users Down Under say online will no longer be kept on the down low.

On Thursday, Australia’s Parliament passed the Assistance and Access Bill. The legislation will force tech companies to help Australian authorities decrypt users’ online communications — and it could represent a major blow to data privacy elsewhere in the world.

Twisting Arms

Messages sent via services such as Facebook’s Messenger or Apple’s iMessage can be encrypted. That means the message is scrambled in a way that’s unintelligible without a special key.

Solid encryption prevents a message from being readable if it’s intercepted by a third party. That’s a thorn in the side of law enforcement agencies, which have often asked tech companies to make it easier for them to access readable versions of these messages.

Advertisement

Both Apple and Facebook have refused to provide this help, arguing that it would jeopardize user privacy. But now that the Assistance and Access Bill is law, companies that refuse to help Australian authorities could face fines of nearly $10 million in Australian currency.

Five Eyes

Australia is a member of the Five Eyes alliance along with Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Britain. Through the alliance, these nations agree to share intelligence information with one another, and in September they made it clear they expect tech companies to facilitate their access to that information.

“Should governments continue to encounter impediments to lawful access to information necessary to aid the protection of the citizens of our countries,”the five nations wrote in a statement, “we may pursue technological, enforcement, legislative, or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions.”

Based on the passage of Australia’s anti-encryption bill, it looks like the nation is ready to start pursuing the legislative route — and it’s not a stretch to imagine the other countries in the alliance following suit.

Advertisement

READ MORE: Be Careful What You Type in Australia. A New Law Will Give Authorities Access to Encrypted Chats. [The Washington Post]

More on encryption: The Future of Cybersecurity Is in High-Speed Quantum Encryption


Care about supporting clean energy adoption? Find out how much money (and planet!) you could save by switching to solar power at UnderstandSolar.com. By signing up through this link, Futurism.com may receive a small commission.

Share This Article

Keep up.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter to keep in touch with the subjects shaping our future.
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement and Privacy Policy

Advertisement

Copyright ©, Camden Media Inc All Rights Reserved. See our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Data Use Policy. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Futurism. Fonts by Typekit and Monotype.