On Thursday, Australia passed a rushed assistance and access bill which will allow Australian police and government the powers to issue technical notices. The Labor party had planned to amend the legislation. However, even after calling the bill flawed, Labor pulled its amendments in the Senate and the bill was passed.
“Let’s just make Australians safer over Christmas,” Bill Shorten, leader of the Opposition and Labor Party said on Thursday evening. “It’s all about putting people first.“
The assistance and access bill provides vague answers on the potential power that it could give government and law enforcement over digital privacy. The government claims that encrypted communications are “increasingly being used by terrorist groups and organized criminals to avoid detection and disruption,” and so this bill will ask tech companies to provide assistance to them in accessing electronic data.
Per Zdnet, under the new assistance and access bill, Australian government agencies can issue three notices to companies and websites:
- Technical Assistance Notices (TAN), which are compulsory notices for a communication provider to use an interception capability they already have.
- Technical Capability Notices (TCN), which are compulsory notices for a communication provider to build a new interception capability, so that it can meet subsequent Technical Assistance Notices.
- Technical Assistance Requests (TAR), which have been described by experts as the most dangerous of all.
Basically, the Australian government can hack, implant malware, undermine encryption or insert backdoors across companies and websites. If companies refuse, they may face financial penalties.
Although the government has said this bill will target criminals in the likes of sex offenders, terrorists, homicide and drug offenses, critics think otherwise. According to communications alliance, the bill contains dangerous loopholes and technical backdoors that could be exploited by hackers.
Another issue of debate was the lack of a clear definition of the term, “systemic weakness.” Labor has asked for a more concrete definition of it in the amendments made on the law next year.
Several lawmakers, as well as the general public, condemned the bill on Twitter pointing out it’s rushed release.
I’ve refrained from commenting too much on the Government’s encryption proposals while the PJCIS did its work. But now that Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have blown up the committee’s work on this Bill, it’s time for a 'thread'…
— Tim Watts MP (@TimWattsMP) December 2, 2018
Far from being a 'national security measure' this bill will have the unintended consequence of diminishing the online safety, security and privacy of every single Australian #AAbill #encryption #Auspol https://t.co/S3qeTSmOUe
— Senator Jordon Steele-John (@Jordonsteele) December 5, 2018
— Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf) December 6, 2018
— Scott Ludlam (@Scottludlam) December 6, 2018
[1/2] That's that. Debate on the #AAbill will be guillotined at 6pm. I've said my bit. I think I've said most of it on here anyway – the #Greens oppose this dangerous anti- #encryption nonsense in its entirety. It is an affront to privacy and to democracy #Auspol
— Senator Jordon Steele-John (@Jordonsteele) December 6, 2018
Just voted to oppose the rushed encryption laws. These laws threaten our safety, our privacy and our industry. Sadly, it was just me and Andrew Wilkie opposing the #aabill
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) December 6, 2018