Aus­tralia gets tough on tech firms

Viet Nam News - - FRONT PAGE -

SYD­NEY — Aus­tralia’s par­lia­ment yes­ter­day passed a bill to force tech firms such as Al­pha­bet Inc’s Google, Face­book and Ap­ple to give po­lice ac­cess to en­crypted data, the most far-reach­ing such re­quire­ments im­posed by a western coun­try.

The bill, staunchly op­posed by the tech gi­ants which fear Aus­tralia could be an ex­am­ple as other na­tions ex­plore sim­i­lar rules, is set to be­come law be­fore the end of the year.

“Let’s just make Aus­tralians safe over Christ­mas,” op­po­si­tion La­bor party leader Bill Shorten told re­porters out­side par­lia­ment in the cap­i­tal of Can­berra.

The bill, passed by the lower house of par­lia­ment ear­lier yes­ter­day, was to be de­bated in the up­per Se­nate, where Labour said it in­tended to sug­gest new amend­ments, be­fore go­ing back to the lower house.

In an eleventh-hour twist, La­bor said that de­spite its reser­va­tions, it would pass the bill in the Se­nate, on the pro­viso that the coali­tion agreed to its amend­ments next year.

“We will pass the leg­is­la­tion, in­ad­e­quate as it is, so we can give our se­cu­rity agen­cies some of the tools they say they need,” Shorten said.

The bill pro­vides for fines of up to A$10 mil­lion (US$7.3 mil­lion) for in­sti­tu­tions and prison terms for in­di­vid­u­als for fail­ing to hand over data linked to sus­pected il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties.

When it be­comes law, Aus­tralia will be one of the first na­tions to im­pose broad ac­cess re­quire­ments on tech­nol­ogy firms, after many years of lob­by­ing by in­tel­li­gence and law en­force­ment agen­cies in many coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly the so- called Five Eyes na­tions.

The Five Eyes in­tel­li­gence net­work, com­prised of the United States, Canada, Bri­tain, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, have each warned that na­tional se­cu­rity was at risk be­cause au­thor­i­ties were un­able to mon­i­tor the com­mu­ni­ca­tions of sus­pects.

Aus­tralia’s gov­ern­ment has said the laws are needed to counter mil­i­tant at­tacks and or­gan­ised crime and that se­cu­rity agen­cies would need to seek war­rants to ac­cess per­sonal data.

Tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies have op­posed ef­forts to cre­ate what they see as a back door to users’ data, a stand-off that was pro­pelled into the pub­lic arena by Ap­ple’s re­fusal to un­lock an iPhone used by an at­tacker in a 2015 shoot­ing in Cal­i­for­nia.

The com­pa­nies say creat­ing tools for law en­force­ment to break en­cryp­tion will in­evitably un­der­mine se­cu­rity for every­one.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Google, Ama­zon and Ap­ple were not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment after the Se­nate vote.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, a Face­book spokesman di­rected Reuters to a state­ment made by the Dig­i­tal In­dus­try Group Inc (DIGI), of which Face­book as well as Ap­ple, Google, Ama­zon and Twit­ter, are mem­bers.

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

“Sev­eral crit­i­cal is­sues re­main un­ad­dressed in this leg­is­la­tion, most sig­nif­i­cantly the prospect of in­tro­duc­ing sys­temic weak­nesses that could put Aus­tralians’ data se­cu­rity at risk,” it said. — REUTERS

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