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Australian Leader’s Stupid Quote About Laws Trumping Math Is Encryption Fight in a Nutshell

Government authorities refuse to consider uncontrollable, dangerous consequences of breaking data privacy.

Malcolm Turnbull and Theresa MayAvalon.red/NewscomAustralia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is getting mocked by the encryption savvy for asserting that the laws of mathematics are subservient to the laws of Australia.

The Australian government is considering legislation that would require online communication companies decrypt messages on demand of law enforcement officials in order to fight crime. The problem is end-to-end encryption blocks companies from decrypting the communications. It's a safety and security measure to make it much harder for people with sinister intentions—either criminals or dangerous governments—to access users' private data.

Turnbull's quote may make him look like an idiot, but the fundamental attitude he's expressing is shared by lawmakers and government officials in other countries, including the United States and England. These people want to deliberately jeopardize everybody's data privacy and security in order to serve the demands for information by law enforcement and the intelligence community.

Government officials have been wanting to force "back doors" into encryption so that they can get access to data in order to fight crime and terrorism. But there's no such thing as a back door that only the government can access.

Once there is a key to break encryption, it can be (and frequently has been) either discovered or reverse engineered by others. Furthermore, no single government, no matter how powerful it is, has the ability to prevent new, unheard of encryption tools from becoming available for criminals and terrorists to access. The inevitable outcome would be average users of commonly distributed communication apps having their data compromised, and actual criminals finding new ways to keep their communications secret.

In this context, Turnbull was asked whether this mathematical reality trumped government's desire to get access on demand to encrypted communication. His response:

"Well the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia."

We should actually appreciate the blunt stupidity of Turnbull's response, because it highlights how stubbornly unwilling government officials have been in recognizing the actual consequences of their proposals. We've seen it from American senators on both the left and the right like Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Richard Burr (R-North Carolina). We've seen it from British Prime Minister Theresa May's administration.

Throughout this encryption fight we have seen government and law enforcement officials lean on their power to legally demand access to information with warrants and investigatory tools in a bid for the authority to compromise everybody's security. The quote from Turnbull vividly demonstrates their belief that the existence of a government law outweighs consideration of other consequences.

The quote should be used as a rhetorical weapon against the likes of Feinstein and May to force them (and law enforcement representatives) to deal with the dangerous consequences of the laws they propose.

Photo Credit: Avalon.red/Newscom

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  • Sevo||

    "...But there's no such thing as a back door that only the government can access...."

    And if there was, that would be the exact reason they shouldn't have it.

  • Sugarsail||

    the government has unfortunately been accessing our backdoor for centuries...if you know what I mean.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It's a safety and security measure to make it much harder for people with sinister intentions—either criminals or dangerous governments...

    I just now realized that you can't spell treason without reason.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The lesson imparted by King Canute still needs refreshing.

  • Dillinger||

    Opposition Party should file bills repealing gravity and daylight post haste.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The Three Laws of Thermodynamics are also inconvient and could use revising.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Don't forget about that pesky Law of Supply and Demand.

  • dantheserene||

    CA-
    I thought the pols had abolished that one already, at least when it is particularly inconvenient for them.

  • Bob Armstrong||

    Thermodynamics has been overturned by GHG AlGoreWarming theory -- without the need to ever show computable equation or experimental demonstration , even .

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    The latter in support of the candle industry, of course.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Didn't Tennessee, or one of our 3rd World Country 'southern states' try legislating pi to be precisely 3.00000?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Yes. The deep south state of Indiana. Late 1800s.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    And there was an internet meme/ rumor in the late '90s that Alabama had done it as well, but that one was false.

  • Wizard4169||

    In fairness, Indiana is a southern state in most respects other than the purely geographic.

  • Finrod||

    A bill passed the Indiana House in 1897 that as a side effect would have defined pi as 3.2 :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Pi_Bill

    Before it reached the Senate, though, a mathematician from Purdue intervened, and the Senate tabled it.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    "Well the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia."

    The law of gravity having been thus superseded, Turnbull was immediately flung into space.

  • BYODB||

    Douglas Adam's approves.

  • Spartacus||

    Well, that explains why they are upside down and therefore always falling upwards.

  • Spartacus||

    I demand a law changing the value of g from 9.8 to 7.3. I need to lose 20 pounds in a hurry.

  • KerryW||

    So, you weight only about 80 pounds? That would be consistent with about a 25% reduction of 20 pounds.

    If so, maybe you need a new handle :-)

  • Spartacus||

    By "I", I mean my balls. They weigh 80 pounds, shaved.

    That better?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    "The only thing I can't figure out is how I would keep the spare change in my pockets ..."

  • FreeToFear||

    nudity

  • Hugh Akston||

    In accordance with traditional Australian jurisprudence, put the bill and the relevant mathematical laws in a big metal dome together and see which one emerges.

  • BYODB||

    I don't know, it can get pretty thunderous in there.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    It's statism in general, through and through. "So let it be written, so let it be done." They really do think that passing a law, no matter how illogical, ill-conceived, inconsistent, overreaching, or counter-productive, is all it takes to solve anything and everything.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    The laws of mathematics are very commendable

    I just can't stop laughing at this. And these are the people who Tony et al insist are the only people who should be allowed to make decisions on any matter of importance.

  • cgr2727||

    2 laws enter - 1 law leaves = 1 law. Math wins.

  • cgr2727||

    Damn squirrels. Was trying to reply to Hugh, not imply that I was coming up with this on my own, thus stealing his thunder(dome).

  • Hugh Akston||

    Real original, fuckface.

  • cgr2727||

    No need to get nasty, unless I missed a "/sarc/" notation somewhere. Like I said, I was trying to reply to your original post, and acknowledged such when I noticed the Reason-squirrels ate my post and posted it on its own thread.

    Otherwise, right back at you.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Adjust your sarcasm detector.

  • cgr2727||

    No need to get nasty, unless I missed a "/sarc/" notation somewhere. Like I said, I was trying to reply to your original post, and acknowledged such when I noticed the Reason-squirrels ate my post and posted it on its own thread.

    Otherwise, right back at you.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Damn, what did you do to those squirrels?

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    I think they are part of this rape culture I keep hearing about.

  • Rebel Scum||

    "If the Earth is round, can an edict of the king make it flat?"

  • Brian||

    Gee: so all the NSA needs to do is outsource everything to communications companies, and they can literally decrypt everything?

    Who knew?

  • ||

    Math.
    Doesn't give a FUCK.
    About your laws.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Christ, what an idiot.

  • dave777||

    This is from ZDnet, the article you cite mocking Turnbull:

    But here is the bottom line -- the best defence against terrorists' plans is good intelligence. We have in the last few years in Australia disrupted twelve major terrorists plots, including several that would have resulted in large mass casualty attacks. How many more can we disrupt if every communication, by every conspirator, is encrypted end to end and cannot be read despite every lawful right, indeed duty, so to do?

  • Rafjxael Pohss||

    Can they set π=3 in Australia? Would be convenient.

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