Thursday, 29 November 2018 10:39

Encryption bill: EFA questions need to rush proposed legislation Featured

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Encryption bill: EFA questions need to rush proposed legislation Pixabay

Digital rights organisation Electronic Frontiers Australia says it is extremely concerned that the Australian Government is rushing the review of the proposed encryption bill, adding that both civil society and the technology industry have serious concerns about the bill.

The EFA pointed out, in a statement, that despite comments made by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that the bill needed to be passed before Christmas, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was unaware of his (Dutton's) intention to speak to the media.

Nor could ASIO offer any justification for the alleged need for urgency in passing the bill during a hearing of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on Monday.

The EFA quoted the chair of its policy team, Angus Murray, as having told the PJCIS on 19 October: “It is incumbent on me, and you; in your capacity as members of this Committee, members of your electorates and individuals who call this great country home, to ensure that we are considering the future and the way that actions today may affect that future.

"In this context, our security is important; however, we must be constantly vigilant to ensure that security does not become a catch cry for the dissolution of basic human rights… the extremely short consultation period for submissions into this Bill and its rapid progression is comprehensively wrong.”

The EFA also pointed to the evidence given to the PJCIS by UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Professor Joseph Cannataci, who pointed out that power was meant to be measured against freedom and justice in a democratic society. Rushing the bill through parliament would make it impossible to achieve this balance.

The organisation also said that the bill lacked proper judicial oversight, reporting, and transparency mechanisms and "seriously increases the government’s ability to secretly monitor Australians and it threatens our software industry’s ability to create secure products and sell them overseas".

It said that building secure software was "incredibly difficult" and that bill had the potential to create vulnerabilities in both software and hardware which could be found and exploited by others.

"The proceedings of the committee so far have not given any indication that this inquiry is complete, or should be cut short - on the contrary, the proceedings have revealed significant issues with the use of existing surveillance powers, that should be of deep concern to all Australians," the EFA said.

"Australians ought to expect better from their government and EFA calls on Australians to demand proper democratic process."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came 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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