Thursday, 02 July 2020 11:50

Minor changes in encryption law expected in final draft

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Minor changes in encryption law expected in final draft Pixabay

The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Dr James Renwick, is likely to have suggested some changes to the encryption law passed by the government in 2018, in his review which was handed down on Monday.

Dr Renwick's term ended with the handing over of the report which can only now be presented to Parliament in August as there are no sittings until then.

The report is expected to inform the deliberations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which is due to submit its final report on what is officially known as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, by 30 September.

Only after that will the government consider any changes to the law that was rushed through Parliament in December 2018.

A review was instituted by the PJCIS as soon as the bill was passed, with a reporting date of 3 April 2019. It was expected to make changes that would provide some solace to the technology industry.

But the panel then put off taking any decision, instead asking Dr Renwick to review the law and report back by 1 March 2020.

In October 2019, Dr Renwick said he was extending the date for submissions to his review until 1 November. At the time he made this announcement, just 15 submissions had been received.

The last time Dr Renwick made any statements about his review was in February when he indicated he would support the security appeals division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal having oversight of technical capability notices issued under the encryption law and resolving any issue that could arise.

The TCN is one way listed in the legislation whereby law enforcement can get industry to aid in breaking encryption.

A technical assistance request or TAR allows for voluntary help by a company; its staff will be given civil immunity from prosecution.

An interception agency can then issue a technical assistance notice or TAN to make a communications provider offer assistance based on existing functionality.

The TCN can be issued by the Attorney-General at the request of an interception agency. This will have to be also approved by the Communications Minister and will force a company to help law enforcement, by building functionality.

However a TCN cannot demand the decryption of information or removal of electronic protection in any system.

Dr Renwick said at the time that what he had heard from technology companies was that using the AAT would give them more confidence in the process. To this end, he backed the addition of some technically qualified people to the AAT as part-time members. He also suggested that a better definition was needed for the term "systemic weakness", adding that this would sit better within the text of law itself.


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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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