Australia Passes A New Encryption Law That Qualifies As The Worst Idea Ever

Australia has passed a new encryption law which the folks down under claim is essential for national security and an important part of law enforcement efforts in fighting terrorism. Essentially, the legislation allows for law enforcement and select government agencies to ask for three different levels of assistance from technology companies in accessing encrypted messages. CNET details those three levels:

  • Technical assistance request: A notice to provide “voluntary assistance” to law enforcement for “safeguarding of national security and the enforcement of the law.”
  • Technical assistance notice: A notice requiring tech companies to offer decryption “they are already capable of providing that is reasonable, proportionate, practicable and technically feasible” where the company already has the “existing means” to decrypt communications (e.g. where messages aren’t end-to-end encrypted).
  • Technical capability notice: A notice issued by the attorney general, requiring tech companies to “build a new capability” to decrypt communications for law enforcement. The bill stipulates this can’t include capabilities that “remove electronic protection, such as encryption.”

This is the dumbest idea ever on a number of levels. First, it sets a dangerous precedent that other countries might be stupid enough to follow. Second, there is almost zero chance that an Apple or Google will willingly go along with this. Finally, you have to trust Australia can keep secrets as what they want is a backdoor. The problem with that is that no government in the history of the universe can keep a secret and you can bet that whatever backdoor access they want will either fall into the wrong hands or get used for something that it was never intended for. That of course is bad.

Australia seriously needs to rethink this because they’re really out to lunch here.

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