Thursday, 25 October 2018 06:15

Overwhelming majority of Aussies oppose encryption bill: survey Featured

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Overwhelming majority of Aussies oppose encryption bill: survey Pixabay

A survey of 4039 Australians has found that nearly 85% of them are deeply worried by the Federal Government's proposed encryption bill, which was introduced in Parliament by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on 20 September.

The survey was carried out by the Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet, a grouping of consumer groups, rights bodies, big corporations and industry lobby groups.

It also found that nearly three-quarters (74.2%) were concerned that the government’s attempts to undertake more cyber surveillance of criminals and terrorists could make the data of all Australians – including healthcare, banking and other personal information – less secure.

A third finding was that four-fifths (80.9%) were concerned about the powers implied in the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018.

These powers could allow the government to force companies to change products and services to enable interception and collection of personal data without their knowledge and without the authorisation of a judge.

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 government has a serious problem on its hands – their constituents across the country see the clear danger of the encryption bill,” said Digital Rights Watch board member Lizzie O'Shea who has been acting as a spokesperson for the Alliance.

“Australians are worried, and the government needs to slow down, stop, and listen to the legitimate concerns of its citizens, instead of trying to ram this legislation through.

“We continue to call for the bill to be rejected in its current form as it represents a danger to our cyber security.”

Communications Alliance chief John Stanton, who has been a vocal critic of the bill, said: “If passed in its current form, the proposed encryption bill would be a first of its kind globally, with the government granting itself unprecedented powers to direct communications providers, hardware manufacturers, telcos and technology companies to install or develop interception mechanisms without telling anyone affected by these changes.

"With close to three quarters of people believing the government shouldn’t have access to personal information or data that exceeds standards in other developed countries, it is clear that Australians have no interest in being the international surveillance guinea pigs either."

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox, another member of the Alliance, said: “Manufacturing and many other industries increasingly depend on smart connected devices. Strong cyber security is central to customer trust, competitiveness, the strength of our economy and the reliability of our infrastructure.

"The potential impacts of the proposed legislation extend well beyond multinational technology businesses, and perhaps beyond what may be intended. For nearly everyone who may be affected, the legislation remains unfamiliar and its implications poorly understood.”

The survey was conducted by ReachTEL on 4 and 5 October (2028 residents across Australia) and on 15 October (2011 residents across the country).

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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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