Home Government Tech Policy Senate passes motion not to water down encryption

The Senate has approved a motion from the Australian Greens to support strong encryption, resist pushes to undermine encryption, and to use warrants and targeted surveillance to obtain information.

The party's digital rights spokesman, Senator Jordon Steele-John, said in a statement he was concerned about the Coalition Government’s plans to pursue decryption technology and ‘alternative powers and capabilities’ for government agencies, especially in the wake of the recent scandal involving Cambridge Analytica obtaining Facebook data.

Last month, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said in a speech that the government planned to introduce legislation to ensure that companies, which provide communications services and devices in the country, were obliged to assist government when needed.

He claimed that ubiquitous encryption had become a "significant obstacle" to the investigation of terrorism offences.

Steele-John said he did not buy an assertion by Liberal Senator James McGrath statement that the Turnbull Government supported strong encryption technologies "given they’ve acknowledged they are actively pursuing decryption pathways".

He said he was, however, buoyed by the fact that the Labor Party and crossbench senators had backed the motion, pointing out that the same motion was voted down when proposed by Senator Scott Ludlam in 2016.

“Encryption technology is used by millions of people every day to manage financial transactions, to protect against identity theft and to keep their medical and other personal information safe, and developers of the technology should not be bullied by governments into making those protections weaker.

“In the wake of these data scandals, we should be strengthening our lacklustre privacy laws and reassuring Australians that their data and their identities will remain secure."

The passing of the motion on Tuesday night comes a day after the encryption debate was revived in the US, with a thinly disguised call for backdoors in encryption technology being made by the US Department of Justice.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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