After months of revelations (and scandals!) about how social media giants monetize their users’ data and after the hammer represented by the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, the Australian government is still brave enough to try to go after encrypted communications.
The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 wants to give law enforcement agents the power to access encrypted communications by making companies like Facebook, Google and Apple to decrypt their users’ information.
Apple itself was involved in a lengthy legal battle with the US Government, saying that their users’ trust and privacy is of utmost importance. The battle was postponed so much, that authorities have resorted to using GrayKey devices to crack confiscated iPhones from suspects. Now, if this legislation passes, the fight will start again.
In the Bill itself, there are three levels of “technical assistance” request the Government can issue towards companies like Whatsapp, Facebook or Telegram in order to request access to decrypted messages and more. What more?
- Removing a form of electronic protection applied by the provider, if the provider has an existing
- capability to remove this protection
- Providing technical information like the design specifications of a device or the characteristics of a service
- Installing, maintaining, testing or using software or equipment given to a provider by an agency
- Formatting information obtained under a warrant
- Facilitating access to devices or services
- Helping agencies test or develop their own systems and capabilities
- Notifying agencies of major changes to their systems, productions or services that are relevant to the effective execution of a warrant or authorization
- Modifying or substituting a target service
- Concealing the fact that agencies have undertaken a covert operation
With this news and the report that Google keeps track of users even with location turned off, privacy advocates are obviously (and probably rightly so) extremely concerned.