The new bill passed by the Australian parliament will force tech companies to hand over encrypted messaging data to government authorities on request. The law, known as The Assistance and Access Bill, is heavily opposed by the public, privacy advocates and tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google.
Are your messages encrypted?
The end-to-end encrypted communication apps include WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage and many others. The end-to-end encryption means that only the sender and the receiver have the decryption key and are able to view the message. Not even the communication company can read the message.
Breaking the encryption
The law creates a backdoor in the encryption, allowing Australian authorities to access and read private conversations. The bill implies that tech companies have to provide access to conversation data, sometimes in secrecy. For example, a chat between two friends will become a group chat between them and a police officer without their knowledge.
Employees of the companies providing the communication service, who refuse to cooperate with the authorities might face time in prison. The company itself can be fined up to $7,8 million for not complying with the law.
Security experts who oppose the law, explain that creating a backdoor would mean putting the security of the entire platform all over the world at risk. If the backdoor exists, hackers can also use it to intercept people’s messages. It will also create a systematic weakness that can put people’s data at risk.
The parliament passed the bill in order to make it easier for police to track and intercept criminals. Terrorist groups, drug dealers and other criminals are currently using the encrypted services to communicate.
What about the rest of the world?
It is yet unclear how the legislation is going to influence the rest of the world. Potentially, the law can intervene with privacy laws in other countries. For example, according to the GDPR any data breach or security violation has to be reported. At the same time, the Assistance and Access bill will allow the government to access information in secret.
That would also damage the reputation of Australian companies that want to export communication programs on the global marketplace. Any messaging service registered in Australia would have to comply with the Assistance and Access Bill.
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