Monday, 04 February 2019 05:21

AFP says it is readying notices under encryption law Featured

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AFP says it is readying notices under encryption law Pixabay

The Australian Federal Police says it is in the process of issuing technical assistance requests under the recently passed federal encryption law, and is discussing with the communications providers concerned what kind of assistance should be offered to them after the orders are issued.

In a submission to the ongoing inquiry into the law, which was passed by Parliament on 6 December, the AFP said these TARs were sought to support ongoing investigations into what it called "serious Commonwealth crime".

The Home Affairs Department, in a submission to the same inquiry, has said the new powers in what is officially known as the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 — which is being referred to as the TOLA Act — were already being used by law enforcement and national security agencies to support their work.

Under the law, 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 TAR 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 or TAN to make a communications provider offer assistance.

Finally, a technical capability notice or TCN can be issued by the Attorney-General at the request of an interception agency. This will have to be also approved by the Communications Minister and will force a company to help law enforcement, by building functionality.

However a TCN cannot demand the decryption of information or removal of electronic protection in any system.

"The AFP continues to ensure we have explored less intrusive options for our current active investigations before application for a computer access warrant," the submission said.

"Computer access warrants are necessary and the ability to escalate to this level of access is critical to operational effectiveness.

"However, the AFP takes the application of such intrusive powers very seriously and with due consideration. These warrants will be used in a very measured and considered way."

The submission also said the AFP did not wish to be the authority to approve or disapprove the issuing of TANs by state and territory police forces. Rather, the AFP said, it preferred a co-ordinating role in the issuing of these notices by the state and territory forces.

The law was passed on 6 December but just 12 days later, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security said it would begin a fresh review.

The new review has asked for submissions and will submit a report by 3 April.

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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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