In December 2018 the Australian Government passed the ‘Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018’ also known as the ‘Anti-Encryption Bill’. The Act compels tech companies—like Apple, Facebook and WhatsApp—to allow Australian Security Services access to encrypted products, services, messages and data. Effectively weakening data-security universally, it has been widely criticised.
According to a report in Wired, the Bill is ‘overly broad, vaguely worded and potentially dangerous.’ On top of compelling companies to weaken there services the law also enables government officials to approach key employees of a company with their demands, rather than the company itself:
In practice, they can force the engineer or IT administrator in charge of vetting and pushing out a product’s updates to undermine its security. In some situations, the government could even compel the individual or a small group of people to carry this out in secret. Under the Australian law, companies that fail or refuse to comply with these orders will face fines up to about $7.3 million. Individuals who resist could face prison time.
In his submission to Australia’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in October 2018, Joe Cannataci, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy described the legislation as ‘fatally flawed’ and advised the committee that it should be put aside, stating:
In the absence of a prohibition on or independent oversight to approve such requests, it will be important to establish conclusively that Australia is not becoming a ‘launderer’ of international requests for data.
According to a Jon Porter writing on The Verge:
The Law Council of Australia has criticized the government for rushing the legislation through Parliament. A draft version of the bill was only presented back in August, while lawmakers had just a day to review the results of a parliamentary committee’s investigation before voting on the bill on Thursday. The opposition Labor Party agreed to drop all 173 of the amendments it initially proposed for the bill in order for it to be passed on the final day of Parliament this year. The amendments are now due to be raised for debate in 2019.