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The devil is in the detail of government bill to enable access to communications data

Monique Mann writes in The Conversation (15.8.18) that the broad and ill-defined new powers outlined in the Turnbull government's new telecommunications bill are neither necessary nor proportionate – and contain significant scope for abuse.

'The Australian government has released a draft of its long-awaited bill to provide law enforcement and security agencies with new powers to respond to the challenges posed by encryption.

'According to the Department of Home Affairs, encryption already impacts 90% of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) priority cases, and 90% of data intercepted by the Australian Federal Police. The measures aim to counteract estimates that communications among terrorists and organised crime groups are expected to be entirely encrypted by 2020.

'The Department of Home Affairs and ASIO can already access encrypted data with specialist decryption techniques – or at points where data are not encrypted. But this takes time. The new bill aims to speed up this process, but these broad and ill-defined new powers have significant scope for abuse.

'The Department of Home Affairs argues this new framework will not compel communications providers to build systemic weaknesses or vulnerabilities into their systems. In other words, it is not a backdoor.

'But it will require providers to offer up details about technical characteristics of their systems that could help agencies exploit weaknesses that have not been patched. It also includes installing software, and designing and building new systems.'

 

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