In a blog post about the encryption law, which was passed by Parliament on 6 December, Lund said through the entire eight-year development of Signal, a project run by Open Whisper Systems which is the brainchild of well-known cryptographer Moxie Marlinspike, resistance had been encountered from people who struggled to understand end-to-end encryption or those who sought to weaken its effects, adding that this was not a new dynamic.
"We can’t include a backdoor in Signal, but that isn’t a new dynamic either," wrote Lund. "By design, Signal does not have a record of your contacts, social graph, conversation list, location, user avatar, user profile name, group memberships, group titles, or group avatars.
"The end-to-end encrypted contents of every message and voice/video call are protected by keys that are entirely inaccessible to us. In most cases now we don’t even have access to who is messaging whom."
Some 50 pages of amendments were handed to the various parties early on 6 December before debate on the bill began. But the bill was finally passed without any amendments due to there being a lack of time for Labor to add any amendments in the Senate.
Labor leader Bill Shorten agreed to this compromise on the proviso that the amendments would be passed during the first sitting of 2019. The government has said it will consider the amendments, but made no commitment that it would accept all of them.
Lund said everything that was developed for Signal was open source and anyone could verify or examine the code from each release. Reproducible builds and other means of binary comparison made it possible to ensure that the code which was distributed was the same as that running on users' systems.
"Everyone benefits from these design decisions – including Australian politicians. For instance, it has been widely reported that Malcolm Turnbull, the 29th Prime Minister of Australia, is a Signal user. He isn’t alone," Lund said.
"Members of government everywhere use Signal. Even if we disagree with [Attorney-General] Christian Porter, we would never be able to access his Signal messages, regardless of whether the request comes from his own government or any other government."
However, he pointed out, though Signal developers could not include a backdoor, Australia could attempt to block the service or restrict access to the app.
"Historically, this strategy hasn’t worked very well. Whenever services get blocked, users quickly adopt VPNs or other network obfuscation techniques to route around the restrictions," said Lund.
"If a country decided to apply pressure on Apple or Google to remove certain apps from their stores, switching to a different region is extremely trivial on both Android and iOS. Popular apps are widely mirrored across the Internet. Some of them can even be downloaded directly from their official website."
Lund said one effect of many that the law would have was to isolate Australians from services they depended on and used daily.
"Over time, users may find that a growing number of apps no longer behave as expected. New apps might never launch in Australia at all.
"Technology organisations that want to open offices in a new country could decide that AEST isn’t such a great timezone after all. Foreign engineers may choose to watch the Australia episode of Planet Earth in 4K rather than spending $4K at an Australian programming conference."
His final poser was: "As remote work continues to become more prevalent, will companies start saying 'goodbye' instead of 'g’day' to applicants from Australia?"