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Australia Chosen as the Battleground to Try to Destroy Your Data Privacy

Draft legislation would force tech companies to compromise encryption at the government's demand.

Snoopy federal officials in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom are still hot to force their way past encryption and access our private data, all in the name of fighting crime and terrorism. And they're taking the battle down under to Australia, where pending legislation could compromise everybody's cybersecurity.

Despite being told over and over and over again that strong encryption is necessary to protect our privacy from criminals and from ill-intentioned governments looking to punish dissidents, people like FBI Director Chris Wray insist that there must be some way that tech companies can compromise encryption, but only for "good guys" like him and never for those terrible crooks or those corrupt foreign governments that want to jail people for protesting.

America has thus far resisted efforts to force tech companies into compromising their encryption with so-called "back doors" or encryption keys that let officials bypass security measures. Technology and privacy experts have explained exhaustively that while warrants may grant officials the authority to attempt to access the data, there is no such thing as an encryption back door that could not be misused, could not escape the government's control, and could not be fabricated by people with criminal intentions.

So instead officials hope Australia will make things easier for them. It's considering legislation that would give law enforcement the power to force companies to help them access private data. But don't take my word for it. Listen to an actual Australian explain it in the best possible way—sarcastically:

The draft bill she refers to is here, and an explanatory document is here. The law would let the government send tech companies a "technical capability notice" mandating that they build tools to help the state access and intercept communications. The explainer insists that the notice "cannot require a provider to build or implement a capability to remove electronic protection, such as encryption." Yet on the very next page, it says the Australian government may demand the "removing a form of electronic protection applied by the provider, if the provider has an existing capability to remove this protection."

As the above video notes, Australia does not have the same civil rights protections as the other four of the "Five Eyes" nations that share intelligence—the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand. So if Australia succeeds in forcing back doors into the encryption our apps, social media platforms, and communications devices, that likely means that their American and other counterparts will gain access too. Who knows who else will get access after that?

Digital Rights Watch is calling on Australians to submit messages to their government warning against passing the bill while there's still time. The deadline is September 10.

Photo Credit: Sjankauskas / Dreamstime.com

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  • Just Say'n||

    This is nuts. Australia sucks so hard.

    But, let's stop playing the game where we pretend like big tech companies don't provide this data to governments already absent any law. They censor their products for China, it's cute that we think they behave differently with our governments.

  • Scott S.||

    There was a great big legal fight with Apple over the fact that they don't? Have we forgotten about that already?

  • Just Say'n||

    It was a great virtue signal for Apple. They got to pretend like they'll totally not cooperate with the government. Just ignore all the time that it cooperates with the government.

    Like in China:

    www.wired.com/story/apple-chin.....ash-emoji/

    Or if you're Paul Manafort, then subpoenas are respected. So the takeaway is if they can't virtue signal off of refusing to unlock your phone or they can make money in your market then they will totally cooperate with the government absent any law.

  • Just Say'n||

    I like the article and thanks for exposing this, but I don't trust big tech to behave responsibly regardless of whether or not governments pass punitive laws.

  • BYODB||

    I have to admit Just Say'n that I'm coming around to the same point of view. The idea that Apple, Google, etc. don't already have tools in place that allow government snooping is probably wrong given that they already do business with authoritarian communist regimes, and it's tremendously unlikely that nations like China would allow them to do business there without such tools.

    It's more a question of if the United States government is allowed the same access to those tools, but it would be a stretch to think that they're not regardless of the public battles they spar over in the public eye.

    As we all know, these deals go on in the backrooms and never see the light of day without, for example, a leak within the NSA itself. In fact, the U.S. government is of the opinion that they can order compliance while also gagging the company from publically mentioning what they're being ordered to do.

    9/11 seems like it was the straw the broke the back of liberty in the name of illusory safety.

  • Just Say'n||

    "9/11 seems like it was the straw the broke the back of liberty in the name of illusory safety."

    Truer words have never been spoken

  • Shirley Knott||

    Amen

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    If you were running a company, and were responsible to your shareholders, would you censor the Taiwanese flag, if it meant you could market your phone to the billion people in China? Or would you abandon your responsibility to your shareholders? Cause I swear I read a whole bunch of outraged right-winger comments on here about Mackey's conscious capitalism and how a company should only care about the bottom line and nothing else.

  • Just Say'n||

    Capitalists are always going to put profits before any other matter. Even Mackey's conscience capitalism (I think it's 'conscience' rather than 'conscious', but I'm not sure) is all about increasing profits, as showing that you are a good steward will inevitably attract the customer base that you desire. His company, Whole Foods invented this whole model.

    I'm not faulting capitalists for behaving like capitalists, I'm taking issue with the notion that we should hold them in high esteem. Especially big businesses which have more incentives to do the bidding of government than not.

    Let's just drop the Randian myth that big business will somehow prevent us from an intrusive state. If anything, they will enable the state to behave more nefariously while skirting the rules to restrain them.

  • Just Say'n||

    Also, you're crabby today

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Sorry, it's that time of the month.

  • Whorton||

    Lets not forget that the government quickly discovered a "workaround" that gave them full access to an encrypted iPhone.

    Thus, the entire iPhone structure is not secure. Period.

    Granted, my iPhone does not have any truly secret data, but I don't want the cops or random government officials seizing my phone for what ever reason, and reading all my messages, or seeing the naked pics of girlfriends or wives. . (nudge nudge). Not to mention everyone whose number I have, the database of my books, or whatever else is on my phone. (granted the NSA already has all the calls I have made and pics I have SENT. . .but not everything)

    If anyone wants to hack my phone, its (216) 522-xxxx (not really, but. . .)

  • Average Dude||

    That video is epic. Well done.

  • JoeJoetheIdiotCircusBoy||

    100000000% agreement!

  • Brian||

    Oh, hell no.

  • H. Farnham||

    Reason needs to go all in to hire the chick from that video to replace Heaton et al. That was good stuff.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    God, I miss Heaton.

  • sarcasmic||

    I miss Naomi. Boy does she bock well.

  • sarcasmic||

    brock argg

  • H. Farnham||

    Seconded. Replace was probably the wrong word to use above. I should have said "hire her to partially fill the huge, gaping void of Heaton's absence.

  • Homple||

    What cyber security? The federal Office of Personnel Management gets hacked, the Chinese grabbed super secret submarine data from a defense contractor, sensitive data on 140,000,000 of us is stolen from Equifax, Google tracks you like a bloodhound and you don't know who sees the information or what they do with it, the NSA and the rest of the government's Panopticon of acronyms captures whatever it wants and stores it in a giant data warehouse in Utah. And this is only what we hear about, Odin only knows what we don't.

    The first thing to realize about cyber security: there is no such thing as cyber security.

  • Longtobefree||

    Only 'for sure' thing; the tech companies will NOT just bail out of Australia and leave it to technically starve to death.

    I would love to see all tech companies with a physical presence in Australia move out, and all other tech companies just block all Australian ISP addresses.

  • perlchpr||

    I would love to see all tech companies with a physical presence in Australia move out, and all other tech companies just block all Australian ISP addresses.

    This would definitely be my preference.

    It could be interesting, though, if the SSL maintainers just tell the .au gov't to fuck off, and everyone is suddenly forced to write their own specially backdoored SSL library.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Eventually free source alternatives will pop up which the government can't destroy. It will be pretty crappy at first, but all it will take is one story on backdoors in any major app to shift the winds of popularity.

    Napster all over again.

  • perlchpr||

    I'm torn. On one hand, I think this is important, and as the video points out, if .au passes this, it will materially affect me, and I want to support the message this video is espousing. OTOH, I've been assured recently that as a foreigner, if I were to contribute monetarily to the people who made this video, I'd be "interfering in a foreign election", and that's bad.

    So, not sure what to do.

  • Longtobefree||

    " I'd be "interfering in a foreign election", and that's bad."

    That also depends. If you are a conservative, it is definitely bad, and you should be imprisoned for life.
    If you are Emperor Hussein, interfering in an Israeli election with US Tax dollars, it would be excellent foreign policy.

  • Jgalt1975||

    Any chance of getting a "clean" version of the video? There are some people at work I'd like to send it to, but the number of F-bombs probably would make that unhealthy from a continued employment perspective.

  • barfman2018||

    Sounds like you're fucked.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    In the Land Down Under, emanations from penumbras are just "ghost stories", and a Griswald is just another name in the directory.

  • matkinson||

    This is what happens when people who have no idea how information security or encryption works, and won't listen to the experts, make laws. This is a Pi = 3 moment.

  • Spookk||

    Who cares what the tech companies do? Just install your own encryption on their off-the-shelf crap. Or just dont bother to use the new backdoored stuff. Or build your own. None of this is that hard.

  • Semesa Brown||

    I wonder if this is in any way a response to the failed attempt to repeal net neutrality in the USA earlier this year.

    While, yeah... one situation regarded the economic and commercial sphere, while the other is firmly in the "national security" sphere, both draw parallels to the concept of restricting individual citizens digital rights.


    I can only say for sure that as an Aussie, I plan to do my utmost to prevent this.

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