Wednesday, 19 September 2018 12:12

Encryption bill endorsed by govt party room Featured

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Barely one week of parliamentary sitting days after the date for comment ended, the Federal Government's party room has endorsed the contentious encryption bill and it could be introduced into the House of Representatives as early as Thursday.

A spokesperson for the Australian Greens told iTWire that there had, as yet, been no confirmation on when the bill would be introduced to the lower house.

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.

The Greens spokesperson said as far as the party was concerned, there had been "an overwhelmingly negative response" to the premise of the bill.

"That is to say that once you undermine the fundamental principle of encryption then Australia's cyber security capabilities will be permanently diminished," the spokesperson added.

The Australian Labor Party was asked what it would do if the bill was introduced this week. A spokesperson would only say: "We don't know that it will be, so we wouldn't comment until that's confirmed."

iTWire contacted the Department of Home Affairs and asked whether the bill would be introduced this week or not, but has not heard back at the time of writing.

According to the draft, telecommunications and Internet companies and makers of digital devices will face fines of up to $10 million if they do not help law enforcement agencies gain access to data needed for investigating terrorism offences.

Individuals will face fines of up to $50,000.

Companies will be initially requested to co-operate with law enforcement; if they do not, the pressure will be stepped up to force them to help.

First, there will be a “technical assistance request” that allows voluntary help by a company. The staff of the company will be given civil immunity from prosecution.

Next, an interception agency can issue a “technical assistance notice” to make a communications provider offer assistance.

Finally, a “technical capability notice” can be issued by the Attorney-General at the request of an interception agency. This will force a company to help law enforcement, by building functionality.

However it cannot include the decryption of information or removal of electronic protection in any system.

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Sam Varghese

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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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