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Wednesday, 06 June 2018 16:34

Greens ask govt to come clean on encryption law details Featured

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Senator Steele-John: "Companies will be forced to undermine their own encryption in order to comply with Australian law." Senator Steele-John: "Companies will be forced to undermine their own encryption in order to comply with Australian law." Supplied

The Australian Greens have asked Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor to outline how the government plans to draft laws to bypass end-to-end encryption without compromising the security of the encrypted data.

Greens Digital Rights spokesperson Jordon Steele-John said in a statement he was concerned the proposed law would simply make it mandatory for firms to hand over the content of encrypted data, absolving the government of compromising that data.

Taylor was on Radio National on Wednesday morning speaking about the encryption legislation, but refusing to offer any detail when asked.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had said earlier this year that the government would force companies that provide encryption for communications to devise a means of giving government agencies access to encrypted messages.

Senator Steele-John said: “What Minister Taylor seemed to suggest this morning was that any company would be expected to produce, as if by magic, the contents of encrypted data if the Australian Government produced a warrant for that data.

“This is extremely problematic whichever way you look at it because if end-to-end encryption is working properly, then you are legislating (and asking) companies to do the impossible. There is no method of accessing data if it has been properly encrypted.

“Companies will be forced to undermine their own encryption in order to comply with Australian law, therefore undermining the privacy and security of user’s data.'

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

"Quite simply this will necessitate surveillance codes, key escrow or some other ‘backdoor’ methodology of decrypting data to allow it to be handed over if the Australian Government produces a warrant," Senator Steele-John said.

“It also allows this Liberal Government to continue to lie through their teeth to the Australian people by saying that they won't legislate companies to undermine their own encryption.

"It really is a case of the laws of maths not applying in Australia if you bury your head far enough in the sand!

“Minister Taylor needs to detail how he proposes to access encrypted data, or else come clean to the Australian people that their online information will be compromised.”

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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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