AUSTRALIA HAS voted to pass the Assistance and Access Bill, the controversial legislation that requires tech companies to allow decryption of messages from apps like Whatsapp.
The bill was passed by a majority of 44-12 after the opposition Labor Party dropped its objections to allow the bill to pass before the Summer recess. Instead, proposed amendments will be discussed in the New Year.
The bill allows for three types of notices to be issued to tech companies - Technical Assistance Notices (TAN) which would command a company to use existing technology from the network to intercept messages.
The second, Technical Capability Notices (TCN) force the companies to install the equipment required to comply with TANs, whilst the third, Technical Assistance Requests (TAR) are voluntary requests for information that carry no penalty for non-compliance, but could be used to garner even more information that either compulsory rule.
The Australian government insists that these are not "back doors" but rather requests for legitimate access (albeit mandatory in most cases). Of course, this could sound an awful lot like back doors to the untrained eye. Colour us untrained.
Labor had expressed many concerns about the bill as it was presented and had previously shown opposition which was dropped in a "pass now, tweak later" arrangement. Prior to that, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne had accused Labor of choosing "to allow terrorists and paedophiles to continue in their evil work in order to engage in point scoring".
The post was later deleted.
As Australians wind down for the Christmas break, they are being reassured that if they are not under active investigation by the Oz-Plod then there is nothing to fear. Where have we heard that before?
Tech companies have repeatedly resisted previous calls for them to allow authorities access to their customer's data. Apple has previously refused to allow the FBI access to phones used by terrorism suspects. It has already slammed the bill in an extensive open letter.
Meanwhile Facebook is probably just waiting for authorities to agree its pricing structure. (Drops mic). μ
But Apple claims 'all iPhone models remain available'
'I can't let you do that, Dave'
Lineup will look a whole lot like this year's iPhone XS
Try some of these if you want to break your cookie habit