Earlier today, Australia’s House of Representatives passed the Assistance and Access Bill. The Anti-Encryption Bill, as it is known as, would allow the nation’s police and anti-corruption forces to ask, before forcing, internet companies, telcos, messaging providers, or anyone deemed necessary, to break into whatever content agencies they want access to. “While the Bill can still be blocked by the Senate — Australian Twitter has been quite vocal over today’s proceedings, especially in regards to the [Australian Labor Party’s] involvement,” reports Gizmodo. ZDNet highlights the key findings from a report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS): The threshold for industry assistance is recommended to be lifted to offenses with maximum penalties in excess of three years; Technical Assistance Notices (TANs) and Technical Capability Notices (TCNs) will be subjected to statutory time limits, as well as any extension, renewal, or variation to the notices; the systemic weakness clause to apply to all listing acts and things; and the double-lock mechanism of approval from Attorney-General and Minister of Communications will be needed, with the report saying the Communications Minister will provide “a direct avenue for the concerns of the relevant industry to be considered as part of the approval process.”
The report’s recommendations also call for a review after 18 months of the Bill coming into effect by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor; TANs issued by state and territory police forces to be approved by the Australian Federal Police commissioner; companies issued with notices are able to appeal to the Attorney-General to disclose publicly the fact they are issued a TCN; and the committee will review the passed legislation in the new year and report by April 3, 2019, right around when the next election is expected to be called.
In short: “Testimony from experts has been ignored; actual scrutiny of the Bill is kicked down the road for the next Parliament; Labor has made sure it is not skewered by the Coalition and seen to be voting against national security legislation on the floor of Parliament; and any technical expert must have security clearance equal to the Australia’s spies, i.e. someone who has been in the spy sector.”
Further reading: Australia Set To Spy on WhatsApp Messages With Encryption Law.
UPDATE: The encryption bill has passed the Senate with a final vote of 44-12, with Labor and the Coalition voting for it. “Australia’s security and intelligence agencies now have legal authority to force encryption services to break the encryptions, reports The Guardian. Story is developing…
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