Monday, 24 September 2018 10:26

Encryption bill: Telstra, Optus focus on how they will be affected

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Encryption bill: Telstra, Optus focus on how they will be affected Pixabay

Big telcos Telstra and Optus have focused on how the Federal Government's encryption bill would affect their businesses in their submissions made to the public consultation on the draft bill, rather than the wider ramifications of the legislation.

Optus said it was the government's business to find the correct balance between extending power over the individual, the resulting tension between privacy and civil liberties and using the law to access data which the bill was seeking to promote.

Telstra said it was pleased that the draft allowed for voluntary assistance through a negotiated agreement, adding that if such an agreement was reached the communications provider in question should be allowed to recover any costs incurred in providing data access to law enforcement.

The Department of Home Affairs released 10 submissions on Friday, saying the submitters were agreeable to having their views published, and adding that more would follow. The period for public comment on the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 ended on 10 September after the draft was released on 14 August.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton introduced the bill into Parliament on Thursday last week. The Labor Party has advised caution on proceeding with the bill, while the Greens have said that Australian cyber security "will be significantly diminished by undermining the fundamental principles of end-to-end encryption".

Telstra pointed out that the deployment of new smartphones or IoT devices could be hampered if the authorities insisted on gaining access to "sensitive technical information" which the manufacturer had shared with the provider as this could breach confidentiality clauses between the provider and the manufacturer.

The telco also expressed apprehension that law enforcement could require changes to a piece of network equipment without the knowledge of other communications providers. It pointed out that a third party could be required to make changes in equipment, without the telco itself being aware of such a change.

Telstra also recommended that the notices, which can be issued under the draft law to force companies to comply with technical requirement, should not force the commission of any criminal offence.

Optus said the proposed assistance regime was better for telecommunications carriers and carriage service providers as it was more detailed and specific in nature, compared to the existing regime.

It also said that the checks and balances on agencies was covered well within the draft, but asked for more latitude for advice on the practical aspects of any remedies that were suggested to be implemented.

The telco said it would like to see a compulsory consultation between agencies and service providers before any notice was issued for technical assistance.

The issue of cost was also touched upon by Optus, with the company seeking a mandatory requirement that "an efficient form of contracting be established to streamline the process of agreement between the agencies and providers for the terms and conditions on which assistance is to be provided".

The company mentioned that it backed whatever had been put forward by the Communications Alliance in its submission as it was a member of the alliance.

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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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