Google and Facebook join rights groups to fight Australia's encryption bill
Encryption Google and Facebook join rights groups to fight Australia's encryption bill
Unusual alliance calls on government to âslow downâ and listen to âlegitimate concernsâ
Tech heavyweights Google and Facebook have joined civil and digital rights groups in an unusual alliance aimed at defeating Australiaâs planned encryption laws.
The Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet brings together the disparate groups in a plea for the government to âslow downâ and listen to âlegitimate concernsâ about its encryption bill.
The alliance includes rights groups such as the Human Rights Law Centre, Digital Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as the Communications Alliance â" an industry group featuring telcos Optus and Telstra. It also features the Digital Industry Group Inc (Digi), an industry body including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon as members.Fears Coalition's encryption bill could destroy privilege against self-incrimination Read more
Lizzie OâShea, a spokeswoman for the new alliance, said the groupâs membership was diverse and typically did not agree on policy issues. But she said they were united for the first time in their opposition to the governmentâs encryption bill.
âAs a group, we are so concerned by the bill that we feel it is our collective civic duty to use our voices to make sure that the public is aware of the alarming legislation the federal government is attempting to rush through parliament with its assistance and access bill,â she said.
The encryption bill has faced fierce resistance from rights groups and industry since an exposure draft was released last month. The bill gives law enforcement new powers to conduct covert surveillance on electronic devices and compel technology companies to assist in decrypting private communications.
The bill is set to be reviewed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, but opponents fear the process will be rushed and the bill will become law within two months.
The government has argued the laws are necessary to protect Australians from âthose who seek to do us harmâ. Former cybersecurity minister Angus Taylor said last month that more than 90% of data intercepted by the Australian federal police used some form of encryption. He said that had âdirectly impacted around 200 serious criminal and terrorism- related investigations in the last 12 months alone.â
âWe must ensure our laws reflect the rapid take-up of secure online communications by those who seek to do us harm,â he said.
Digi has previously voiced concerns about the legislation, saying the government is effectively forcing tech companies to build weaknesses into their systems, which makes user data vulnerable. The legislation gives the government powers to issue âtechnical capability noticesâ to tech companies, compelling them to design systems to give assistance to the domestic spy agency, Asio, and other interception agencies.
âThe reality is that creating security vulnerabilities, even if they are built to combat crime, leaves us all open to attack from criminals,â the Digi managing director, Nicole Buskiewicz, said.
The Communications Alliance chief executive, John Stanton, said the government was trying to ram its encryption legislation through without proper consultation.
Stanton said the bill gave law enforcement unprecedented powers without proper oversight.
âThe scope of this legislation sets a disturbing first-world benchmark and poses real threats to the cybersecurity and privacy rights of all Australians,â he said.
âInstead of trying to ram this legislation through the committee process and the parliament, the government needs to sit down with stakeholders, engage on the details and collectively come up with workable, reasonable proposals that meet the objective of helping enforcement agencies be more effective in the digital age.âTopics
- Australian politics
- Australian police and policing
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