Internet giants are resisting calls by counter-terrorism agencies and the federal government to get behind new encryption laws, warning the laws risk the privacy and ­security of all Australians. Generic picture: iStock
Internet giants are resisting calls by counter-terrorism agencies and the federal government to get behind new encryption laws, warning the laws risk the privacy and ­security of all Australians. Generic picture: iStock

Web giants say encryption laws a privacy threat

Internet giants are resisting calls by counter-terrorism agencies and the federal government to get behind new encryption laws, warning the laws risk the privacy and ­security of all Australians.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Tuesday called on the parliamentary committee reviewing the proposed laws to return its advice "as quickly as possible" in the wake of police thwarting ­another alleged terror attack in Melbourne.

It is understood police will allege the three people arrested on Tuesday were using encrypted messaging service Telegram to communicate with each other.

Mr Dutton said the use of encrypted communication was a "significant matter" in the alleged terror plot, warning there was a "significant gap" in Australian law enforcement and spy agencies' ability to monitor encrypted messages.

An alliance backed by Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon has called for major changes to the Bill, arguing the legislation in its current form provides a "back door" to their encrypted technologies by forcing them to build weaknesses into their systems.

Under the laws, the government would be given wide-ranging powers to issue "technical capability notices" to tech companies, making them ­design systems and install spyware on their devices and platforms to help give ASIO better access to encrypted conversations.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton said the legislation gave "unlimited powers to enforcement agencies", which threatened to put weaknesses into communication platforms that could be "exploited by criminals and terrorists".

"It is a threat to the cyber-security and the privacy of all Australians," Mr Stanton said.

"The Bill is being critically examined by the committee which is what needs to happen."

Mr Dutton accused Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of being against the proposed laws, saying "we are in a position of vulnerability" by not passing the legislation.

"I want to call on the intelligence committee today within the Parliament to return their advice back to the Parliament quickly because this is legislation the government needs to deal with urgently," Mr Dutton said.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Mr Dutton was "lying about Labor's position" on the Bill, saying the Opposition was supportive of the government-controlled committee's review of the proposed laws.

More than 90 per cent of data which is intercepted by the AFP now uses some form of encryption, and encryption has an impact on at least nine out of every ten of ASIO's priority cases.

The AFP estimates that by 2020 all electronic communications of investigative value will be encrypted.



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