Australia Prepares Laws Forcing Tech Companies to Help Police Access Encrypted Data of Criminals

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Australia is gearing up to release new laws that will force Australian telecommunications companies and global tech companies to comply with law enforcement agencies, when such agencies ask for access to encrypted data on the smartphones of suspected criminals (via ABC News Australia). The laws are the latest in an ongoing global data battle that hit a fever pitch in the United States in early 2016 when the FBI asked Apple for a backdoor into the smartphone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Specifics in regards to the Australian laws have not yet been shared, but they are said to affect companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google, which would face "significant fines" if they choose not to comply with encrypted data requests. Australian telecommunications companies affected under the law include Telstra and Optus.


Cyber security minister of Australia Angus Taylor was asked if the laws would allow surveillance codes to be implanted into smartphones and "avoided directly answering," stating a lack of preparation to get into technical details.

Notably, one detail Taylor did confirm is that the government would not ask companies to install a backdoor into their apps and equipment, nor would they be asked to "provide law enforcement agencies with an encryption key." Because of this, it's unclear exactly how the Australian government's demands would need to be met by companies.
"There's been ideas around for decades that you should create some kind of key that law enforcement can get access to, to access any data at any time -- that's not what we're proposing here," Mr Taylor said.

"But at the same time we must ensure that law enforcement doesn't lose access to the data and the information they need to pre-empt terror attacks and crimes, and to hold criminals and terrorists to account."
Taylor explained that the new proposals are an update to antiquated laws in Australia: "Those laws should be extended to a situation where messages are being sent through an app, or via any other means, in ways that the current laws hadn't anticipated," he said. "It's not appropriate to have a world where we can do this for analogue data, analogue communication, but we can't do it in the digital world."

In the United States, last month an anti-surveillance coalition, including Apple, condemned recent proposals for backdoor access into electronic devices. The coalition previously published a core principle pledging to ensure device security through strong encryption and calling on governments to avoid taking actions that would require companies to "create any security vulnerabilities in their products and services."

The news came as law enforcement officials were said to be revisiting proposals that would require tech companies to build backdoor access into devices for better access to data in criminal investigations. Apple continued enhancing user security in the recent iOS 12 beta, where a new setting was discovered that prevents USB accessories from connecting to the iPhone when it's been more than an hour since the device was unlocked.

Law enforcement officials use USB access to iOS devices to connect accessories like the GrayKey box, a tool that plugs into the Lightning port of an iPhone and uses the data connection in an attempt to brute force a passcode. With the new setting, an iPhone's Lightning port data connection will not work with the GrayKey box if it's been more than an hour since a passcode was entered, rendering it effectively useless unless used immediately after an iPhone is obtained from a suspect.

In Australia, draft legislation of the new laws will be presented "in weeks" so more details about the plans should emerge soon. Ahead of the launch, Taylor said that the government is "very sympathetic to the concerns that the tech service providers have had" in regards to forced compliance with data gathering on electronic devices.

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 Prepares Laws Forcing Tech Companies to Help Police Access Encrypted Data of Criminals
 

leman

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Oct 14, 2008
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What I am curious about: what would happen if the tech company simply can’t provide the information, since it does t have it? For instance, if messaging uses end-to-end encryption? Would designing and implementing such mechanisms become illegal under laws like these?

And btw, comparison with the old-school communication is silly. There is nothing preventing me from using an old-fashioned code in a paper letter. And I am not aware of any international law that would force me to reveal the code to the police. Or is the idea to make sending coded letters illegal?
 

ThisIsNotMe

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I love when politicians that have no clue how tech works propose these kind of laws.
Technology dosesnt dictate policy.
Policy dictates technology.
How technology “works” is 100% irrelevant and technology can always be changed to keep up with policy.
 

itsmilo

macrumors 68040
Sep 15, 2016
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Technology dosesnt dictate policy.
Policy dictates technology.
How technology “works” is 100% irrelevant and technology can always be changed to keep up with policy.
Not always until you somehow manages to dive into the 4th dimension.

For example some idiots in Germany want a „upload filter“ but at the same time they want data protection so how are companies supposed to check EVERY SINGLE file that gets uploaded by 6363728282 users daily without breaking privacy laws. Obviously you have to know what people are uploading to be able to filter it out.
 

vipergts2207

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Apr 7, 2009
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I would love to see some major companies reacting by pulling out of the Australian market if such a law is passed.
I wonder what some of these global tech companies are going to do when various countries pass a mish-mash of various laws, some of which will likely run counter to one another.
 
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Schranke

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Apr 3, 2010
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I wonder what some of these global tech companies are going to do when various countries pass a mish-mash of various laws, some of which will likely run counter to one another.
Well in the case of countries making laws for the companies to help unlock data, they will just have to make it so that they themself have no way of getting access to it.

For countries outright banning encryption or require backdoors, I guess there is no other move then to comply or leave. I that case I hope they leave and the population in that country will demonstrate and demand the right to privacy
 

KdParker

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Oct 1, 2010
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Not really.

Once a way to 'backdoor" your phone is given to the some agency, it is only a matter of time before it is widely available for other non sanction agencies or individuals.

So if you value your privacy whether you have nothing to hide or not, this would be a bad idea.

I get the concern with criminal activity and terror plots and want to be protected and whilst I have nothing to hide I still want a level of protection against my human right of privacy. It’s such a challenged grey area.
 

ArtOfWarfare

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Nov 26, 2007
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"It's not appropriate to have a world where we can do this for analogue data, analogue communication, but we can't do it in the digital world."
I agree with what he literally said, but not what he meant.

It's screwed up that the government (or anyone) is able to snoop on you if you're using analogue communication. Thank goodness we have companies like Apple protecting our privacy when it comes to digital communication.
 

err404

macrumors 68030
Mar 4, 2007
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How can you dictate something when you have no idea how it works?
That happens all the time. Without question iOS can be made to comply with the law. The question is whether it should.
There are valid concerns within law enforcement agencies, but these need to be balanced with what we want out of our technology.
Also the wording will be very important. Helping law enforcement to access the device does not necessarily mean guaranteed success. If the design prevents access, they may still be in compliance even if the data can not be opened.
 

gixxerfool

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Jun 7, 2008
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It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I don’t know how big of a market Australia is to these companies, but seeing them all pull out of the country over this would send quite a message.
 
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0007776

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I wonder what some of these global tech companies are going to do when various countries pass a mish-mash of various laws, some of which will likely run counter to one another.
I would guess it would depend on the size of the market. For larger markets if at all possible they will likely make a special less secure version of it for that country that complies with the law. If it is too small of a market to be worth making a separate version they will either pull out or ignore it and fight it in court when the country gets mad at them.

I would love it if they made separate versions and then had a pop up that comes up regularly to remind users that thanks to their government's requirements their phone is not secure.
 
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LovingTeddy

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Well in the case of countries making laws for the companies to help unlock data, they will just have to make it so that they themself have no way of getting access to it.

For countries outright banning encryption or require backdoors, I guess there is no other move then to comply or leave. I that case I hope they leave and the population in that country will demonstrate and demand the right to privacy
That is naive thinking. When global tech companies leave, local companies which will follow law will fill the vacume.

When Google left China, Baidu became monoply on searh. When Youtube, FaceBook, Twitter not present in China, we have Webo, Wechat, Youku, QQ Video. I don't think Chinede government even care if Google pulles out of China nor Chinese citizen care.
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I would guess it would depend on the size of the market. For larger markets if at all possible they will likely make a special less secure version of it for that country that complies with the law. If it is too small of a market to be worth making a separate version they will either pull out or ignore it and fight it in court when the country gets mad at them.

I would love it if they made separate versions and then had a pop up that comes up regularly to remind users that thanks to their government's requirements their phone is not secure.
It also won't work. Govermnet will know such function exist and will demand changes, such functionailities will be removed or banned at whole sale
 

0007776

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It also won't work. Govermnet will know such function exist and will demand changes, such functionailities will be removed or banned at whole sale
I believe there is a special version of iOS for China, and I know some other countries have specific laws that Apple makes special versions to comply with (for example I once bought a used iPhone that originally was from Korea and apparently there Apple has to make it so you can not turn off the camera shutter sound, and they comply) so I would think it would work. Unless of course you are referring to my suggestion that if they comply they include a pop up warning users that their data is not secure, that is something the government could ban.
 

macduke

macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
11,074
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“We don’t want you guys to build a back door or key, we want you to build a really strong door and provide us access to unlock it.”

Are you freaking kidding me right now? All the curse words! These guys are either idiots or know exactly what they’re doing—spinning it.
 
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