Wednesday, 03 October 2018 10:07

Unlikely alliance calls for scrapping encryption bill Featured

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An unlikely alliance of consumer groups, rights bodies, big corporations and industry lobby groups has united in what is known as the Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet and urged the Federal Government to reconsider any further movement on its encryption bill.

In a media release, sent to media organisations on Tuesday and Wednesday the group's spokeswoman, Lizzie O'Shea of Digital Rights Watch, said: "This Bill stands to have a huge impact on millions of Australians, so it is crucial that lawmakers reject this proposal in its present form before we sleepwalk into a digital dystopia."

Members of the Alliance include the ACCAN, Access Now, AI Group, AIIA, Amnesty International Australia, AMTA, Blueprint for Free Speech, Communications Alliance, DIGI, Digital Rights Watch, Future Wise, Hack for Privacy, Human Rights Law Centre, Internet Australia, IoTAA, and Liberty Victoria, who together represent consumers, human rights organisations, business, industry and a wide range of technology companies.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo! and Twitter are all members of DIGI.

The draft bill, officially known as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, was released for public comment on 14 August; the period for comment ended on 10 September.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton introduced the bill into Parliament on 20 September. The Labor Party has advised caution on proceeding with the bill, while the Greens have said that Australian cyber security "will be significantly diminished by undermining the fundamental principles of end-to-end encryption".

Digital Rights Watch was among a group — the others were the Australian Privacy Foundation, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Future Wise, The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Access Now, and Blueprint for Free Speech — that made a submission to the bill, which iTWire reported.

The release said the Alliance was made up of voices "who sometimes disagree on policy questions, but have come together for the first time as a unified voice".

“As a group, we are so concerned by the Bill that we feel it is our collective civic duty to use our voices to make sure that the public is aware of the alarming legislation the Federal Government is attempting to rush through Parliament with its Assistance and Access Bill,” said O’Shea.

Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton, who is also a spokesman for the new Alliance, said: “The scope of this legislation sets a disturbing first-world benchmark and poses real threats to the cyber security and privacy rights of all Australians.

“Instead of trying to ram this legislation through the committee process and the Parliament, the government needs to sit down with stakeholders, engage on the details and collectively come up with workable, reasonable proposals that meet the objective of helping enforcement agencies be more effective in the digital age.”

Stanton, too, has spoken out earlier in a submission which represented the views of the Australian Information Industry Association and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, as well as CA.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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