Aus­tralia’s spies get new pow­ers to ac­cess What­sapp mes­sages

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Our For­eign Staff

AUS­TRALIA has passed a law that will al­low spies to snoop on en­crypted mes­sages on ser­vices such as What­sapp – a world first that has alarmed pri­vacy ad­vo­cates and the tech in­dus­try.

Un­der the leg­is­la­tion, po­lice and the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies can force tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies – in­clud­ing over­seas gi­ants such as Face­book and What­sapp – to re­move en­crypted pro­tec­tion for peo­ple un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Can­berra says the laws are needed to in­ter­cept com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween se­ri­ous and dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals, in­clud­ing ter­ror­ists and pae­dophiles.

Alas­tair Macgib­bon, the gov­ern­ment’s cy­ber-se­cu­rity ad­viser said the state had been able to law­fully in­ter­cept tele­phone calls for al­most half a cen­tury and needed the new pow­ers to keep pace with the mod­ern world.

The leg­is­la­tion was rushed through par­lia­ment late on Thurs­day night, on the last day of sit­ting for the year, af­ter the op­po­si­tion La­bor Party agreed to drop amend­ments in the in­ter­est of pub­lic safety over the Christ­mas break.

“I think these laws were rushed,” Bill Shorten, the party leader, ad­mit­ted yesterday.

The Law Coun­cil of Aus­tralia, Aus­tralia’s top le­gal body, said the leg­is­la­tion “rammed” through par­lia­ment left open the pos­si­bil­ity of “over­reach”

‘This leg­is­la­tion is out of step with sur­veil­lance and pri­vacy leg­is­la­tion in Europe and other coun­tries’

from po­lice and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

The coun­cil was con­cerned that the new laws could cir­cum­vent the need for au­thor­i­ties to get a war­rant, while peo­ple could be de­tained in some cir­cum­stances with­out be­ing al­lowed to con­tact a lawyer.

“It’s not just the rights of cit­i­zens that are po­ten­tially com­pro­mised by this out­come, but in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and law en­force­ment that are at risk of act­ing un­law­fully,” said Morry Bailes, the coun­cil pres­i­dent.

Dig­i­tal In­dus­try Group Inc, a non­profit body that rep­re­sents Google, Face­book and Twit­ter, said the laws were un­nec­es­sary.

“This leg­is­la­tion is out of step with sur­veil­lance and pri­vacy leg­is­la­tion in Europe and other coun­tries that have strong na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns,” said the group.

Mr Bailes added that the se­cu­rity com­mit­tee process has been “politi­cised” with the leg­is­la­tion, adding: “The com­mit­tee must now be given the time it needs to en­sure there are no un­in­tended con­se­quences, which could be to the detri­ment of us all.

“Next year, as well as pass­ing the re­main­ing amend­ments, the in­tel­li­gence and se­cu­rity com­mit­tee needs to be brought back into the frame to get these laws right.”

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