AUSTRALIA'S TURNBULL GOVERNMENT is planning to introduce legislation that gives authorities the right to force tech firms to hand over encrypted data.
On ABC radio - hat tip to The Guardian - Australia's cybersecurity minister Angus Taylor said drafted legislation that's to be introduced in the coming months would "modernise" existing Aussie laws
"The key point here is that we need to modernise our laws and get access to information for holding criminals and terrorists to account for investigations and gathering evidence," he said, almost echoing the sentiments of supporters of the UK's Snoopers' Charter 2.0.
He noted that previous laws were developed decades ago "during an analogue era" and are now out of date.
"Much data and information is transferred through messaging apps and it's digital not analogue. There've been very substantial changes in the technology and we need to update the powers," he explained.
Taylor said the legislation won't expect tech firms to build backdoors into their services, yet he also didn't detail how security agencies would go about accessing encrypted data.
In the case of services like WhatsApp, end-to-end encryption makes it difficult for even owner Facebook to access a user's messages let alone cede access to a third-party.
But then again there are claims that loopholes in such encryption could allow snooping on messages, which could be one technique security agencies could use to extract data on suspects of criminal and terrorist activity.
Taylor also said that discussing the ways security agencies could access the data held by technology firms is "not within my remit", meaning he neatly sidestepped any further probing questions.
Worryingly, Nigel Phair, from the Centre for Internet Safety at the University of Canberra, said the avoidance of backdoor access would mean Aussie agencies would look to establish some form of front door access to the data they might be after in the near-future.
"What we're probably talking about here is straight up an agreement with the device manufacturer [to] enable law enforcement agencies at some stage to get access to data," he said.
Such a move would likely result in tech firms either playing nicely with Australian law enforcement or butting heads with them, as was the case with Apple and the FBI's demand for the unlocking of an iPhone belonging to a gunman involved in the San Bernardino shootings of December 2015.
Phair noted that the draft legislation raises plenty of questions, especially around privacy and governmental snooping: "It would be helpful to actually be able to see the legislation. Under what particular circumstances would access be granted? This is really serious eavesdropping, so it should only be used for really serious offending and national security."
Given the successful legal challenges made against the UK Investigatory Powers Act, we can expect that there'll be some opposition to any similar moves made by the Australian government. µ
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