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

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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.

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Article Link: Australia Passes Controversial Encryption Bill Despite Opposition From Apple and Other Tech Companies
 
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Porco

macrumors 68040
Mar 28, 2005
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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.

Idiocy.
 

Unami

macrumors 6502a
Jul 27, 2010
698
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Austria
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.
 

Googlyhead

macrumors 6502
Apr 19, 2010
409
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Just encrypt the encryption..
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.
 

dilbert99

macrumors 68020
Jul 23, 2012
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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
So you donate all of your time and wages to help the homeless?
[doublepost=1544187787][/doublepost]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.
 

cosmichobo

macrumors 6502
May 4, 2006
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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.
 

genovelle

macrumors 6502a
May 8, 2008
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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.
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.
 

Sasparilla

macrumors 65816
Jul 6, 2012
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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.
 

centauratlas

macrumors 65816
Jan 29, 2003
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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,
 
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Supermacguy

macrumors 6502
Jan 3, 2008
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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.
 

nt5672

macrumors 68000
Jun 30, 2007
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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.
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.
[doublepost=1544190995][/doublepost]
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.
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.
 

jav6454

macrumors P6
Nov 14, 2007
16,864
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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.
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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