Australia Passes Controversial Encryption Bill Despite Opposition From Apple and Other Tech Companies

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Dec 7, 2018.

  1. MacRumors, Dec 7, 2018
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2018

    MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    The Australian parliament on Thursday passed controversial encryption legislation that could result in tech companies being forced to give law enforcement access to encrypted customer messages.

    As we reported in October, Apple opposed the legislation in a seven-page letter to the Australian parliament, calling the encryption bill "dangerously ambiguous" and wide open to potential abuse by authorities.


    Advocates of the bill, officially titled "Assistance and Access Bill 2018," argue it is essential to national security because encrypted communications are used by terrorist groups and criminals to avoid detection.

    CNET provided a breakdown on the Australian bill and the three tiers of law enforcement and state agency assistance it covers:
    • Technical assistance request: A notice to provide "voluntary assistance" to law enforcement for "safeguarding of national security and the enforcement of the law."
    • Technical assistance notice: A notice requiring tech companies to offer decryption "they are already capable of providing that is reasonable, proportionate, practicable and technically feasible" where the company already has the "existing means" to decrypt communications (e.g. where messages aren't end-to-end encrypted).
    • Technical capability notice: A notice issued by the attorney general, requiring tech companies to "build a new capability" to decrypt communications for law enforcement. The bill stipulates this can't include capabilities that "remove electronic protection, such as encryption."
    The Australian government insists that the laws don't provide a backdoor into encrypted communications, however Apple says says the language in the bill permits the government to order companies who make smart home speakers to "install persistent eavesdropping capabilities" or require device makers to create a tool to unlock devices.

    Likewise, the joint industry lobby group DIGI, which includes Amazon, Facebook, Google, Oath, and Twitter, said they were willing to work with the government to promote public safety, but the laws could "potentially jeopardize the security of the apps and systems that millions of Australians use every day."

    Apple has fought against anti-encryption legislation and attempts to weaken device encryption for years, and its most public battle was against the U.S. government in 2016 after Apple was ordered to help the FBI unlock the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino.

    Apple opposed the order and claimed that it would set a "dangerous precedent" with serious implications for the future of smartphone encryption. Apple ultimately held its ground and the U.S. government backed off after finding an alternate way to access the device, but Apple has continually had to deal with further law enforcement efforts to combat encryption.

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: Australia Passes Controversial Encryption Bill Despite Opposition From Apple and Other Tech Companies
  2. vicviper789 macrumors regular

    Jun 5, 2013
  3. pika2000 macrumors 603

    Jun 22, 2007
    So aussie government seem to be more concerned about other people’s business than, I don’t know, other problems like homelessness. I’m glad aussies know their priorities. /s
  4. iGobbleoff macrumors regular


    May 2, 2011
    Our government doesn’t know it’s ass from its head. Or it’s head is too far up there.
  5. Porco macrumors 68030


    Mar 28, 2005
    Presumably the terrorists and criminals, upon reading this like the rest of us, will simply plan accordingly, making the whole thing utterly pointless whilst introducing huge potential security, privacy and economic damage for the vast majority of innocent people.

  6. patent10021 macrumors 68030


    Apr 23, 2004
    Where women glow and men plunder?
    Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
    You better run, you better take cover.
  7. Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    Well, Australia is part of the Five Eyes - so I wouldn't be surprised if there's some pressure from the U.S. or U.K. to get a chance to spy on their own people via Australia.

    On the other hand, it's kind of a convenient telltale. If whatsapp, imessage, fb-messenger, hike, signal, etc... don't get banned in Australia, we know that those messengers aren't safe to use anymore.
  8. Googlyhead macrumors 6502

    Apr 19, 2010
    Technically; that's exactly what will be done by anyone with something to hide. It'll just be a case of running through a dedicated encryption program (or plug-in) before sending with any messaging app.
    All this bill does is highlights to people that they're currently depending on a single layer of protection (so prompting those affected to review this), and shows the incredible stupidity of bureaucrats and politicians.
  9. philosopherdog macrumors 6502a


    Dec 29, 2008
    Brain dead law. The west will lose tech dominance if this nonsense is not reversed.
  10. ikir macrumors 65816


    Sep 26, 2007
  11. deeddawg macrumors 604

    Jun 14, 2010
    If Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. were to suddenly cease all sales and operations within Australia, that law would be gone in a heartbeat.

    Doubt that'd ever happen though, unfortunately.
  12. kahkityoong macrumors 6502


    Jan 31, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    An overreaction to cover for the fact that our anti terrorism department isn’t up to the job.
  13. azentropy macrumors 68020


    Jul 19, 2002
    One of these days a bill like this is going to go too far and it will outweigh that market's benefit.
  14. deeddawg macrumors 604

    Jun 14, 2010
    Perhaps, but do remember that legislative bodies know how to boil a frog.
  15. dilbert99 macrumors 68020

    Jul 23, 2012
    So you donate all of your time and wages to help the homeless?
    --- Post Merged, Dec 7, 2018 ---
    From what I hear, these laws are just a bit too vague.
    You only have to look at politicians questioning Zuckerberg to know that a lot of politicians are technically illiterate.

    Altering laws in these fields only apply to law abiding citizens, criminals just move on to the next thing.
    There is nothing stopping criminals from simply installing their own encrypted apps on devices and bypassing any legislation. You can't stop funded and technically literate criminals from encrypting traffic.
  16. cosmichobo macrumors 6502


    May 4, 2006
    It is bizarre that the opposition were rather fiercely opposing the bill, and then suddenly decided to support it. One has to wonder what back room deals were going on.

    It is appalling, especially considering the situation with Huawei. Absolute hypocrites.
  17. genovelle macrumors 6502a

    May 8, 2008
    No one switched sides. One group said they would work with the government but said the laws could potentially jeopardize the security of that county’s users.
  18. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

    Mar 10, 2005
    Is this when Australia loses access to technology companies and their software due to their government policies?
  19. Sasparilla macrumors 65816

    Jul 6, 2012
    Five eyes will be very happy - as well as all the intelligence agencies of other countries as they all only want to be able to monitor everyone, everywhere (screw privacy for the country / citizens) - which will inevitably be abused when some nut or party of nuts is elected into office in the Democracies (as the U.S. and chunks of Europe have shown over the last 10 years that is a when, not an if).

    It'll be interesting to see how Apple handles this. Make iMessage and other encrypted services not be included on their Aussie handsets (and allow separate downloads)? Make iMessage only sms (green) for Aussie's. Hopefully they have some backup plan.
  20. centauratlas, Dec 7, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018

    centauratlas macrumors 65816


    Jan 29, 2003
    Apple just needs to encrypt everything - iCloud backups, history, iMessages, everything - using an on-device private key from the secure enclave. Apple (or any company or 3rd party) holding the private keys is a recipe for disaster which is what happens now with iCloud information.

    And probably they need to beef up the secure enclave's protections.

    This isn't about "if you have nothing to hide, you don't need encryption" if anything has been learned over the past 3-4 decades, it is that no matter how good your security is, there will be problems. If one company holds the private key to 2 billion iOS devices' iCloud backups (for example, 2 billion sold) that represents a huge target. At some point, it will be hacked and everyone's devices will be at risk. If on-device keys are used, each device must be hit individually.

    See e.g. Heartbleed, Spectre, Meltdown, Dirty Cow etc not to mention social engineering and companies that lost data see e.g. Sony, Yahoo, Marriott, Target, FriendFinder, MySpace, LinkedIn, Equifax, US National Archive, Anthem, Dropbox, Epislon, Tumblr, Home Depot, Google's Kubernetes (which they spun out) last week which impacted huge swaths of IT, Microsoft employee email data breach due to phishing,
  21. scottsjack macrumors 68000

    Aug 25, 2010
    No problem, easy solution in a democracy. If the government demands the encryption keys Apple should just pull completely out of the market. Let the Australian citizens decide whether they want government snooping or Apple products.
  22. Supermacguy macrumors 6502

    Jan 3, 2008
    Dumb laws like this happen because lawmakers don't listen to, and heed, expert advice. I don't expect politicians to be experts in all fields; but I do want/expect them to seek out and listen to the experts and scientists. Some seem so bent on ensuring they convince themselves of their preconceived notions, that new and enlightening information must be incorrect so they dismiss it.
  23. guzhogi macrumors 68030


    Aug 31, 2003
    Wherever my feet take me…
    How soon will we have something like the TV show "Person of Interest" (if we don't already)?
  24. nt5672 macrumors 68000

    Jun 30, 2007
    Cook has already proven that he is only interested in total world dominance, just part the world will not do. So he is willing to give in to the worst of each government in the world to achieve it. Pulling out of Australia will not happen.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 7, 2018 ---
    Law makers are not dumb, they know exactly what they are doing. What people don't understand is that governments the world over are composed of people that want power for power's sake. They and the media lie to keep this out of the headlines, but they don't care about individuals, or privacy, or right and wrong unless the citizens are willing to riot or overthrow them. This is why the 2nd Amendment is so important to us in the United States. At the end of the day, the 2nd Amendment is the only law that protects freedom, privacy, etc., period. It does so because it provides the only means to threaten Orwellian government power.
  25. jav6454 macrumors P6


    Nov 14, 2007
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    It won’t, but Apple will not yield in this aspect. I can already sense lawsuits inbound regarding this issue.

    I have never been to Australia, but it seems (at least on the surface) many Australians supported this. Normally when something like this ends up on a Congress vote here in the US, everyone (I’m looking at you ACLU) goes up in picthforks and torches. See: SOPA & PIPA shoot downs. I haven’t seen many news stories from Australia that were against it or showed people against it. Then again, I could be quite wrong. Any Australians willing to share viewpoints?

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