Australia Passes Anti-Encryption Bill in Rushed Process

In yet another anti-technological move, Australia has now passed its anti-encryption bill in spite of widespread protests.

The Australian government has taken another step in its war on technology. The process started back in August when the government proposed a bill to weaken encryption and permit spy agencies to upload malware onto target computers. The push was at the behest of various spy agencies around the world who demanded backdoor access to everything.

As the process was moved ahead, security and tech companies all across Australia pushed back, even going as far as to say they will leave Australia if the law passes. With today’s move, it seems that the Australian government doesn’t care if investment dollars and countless jobs does not matter to them.

Today, news is surfacing that Australia has now passed it’s anti-encryption laws. From Al Jazeera:

A bill to force technology firms including Google, Facebook and Apple to give police access to encrypted data was passed by Australia’s lower house of parliament on Thursday, pushing it closer to becoming a precedent-setting law.

The proposal, opposed by the tech giants because Australia is seen as a test case for other nations who want to explore similar rules, faces a sterner test in the upper house where there are concerns about privacy and information security.

Under the bill, companies that fail to hand over data linked to suspected illegal activities would face a fine of as much as 10 million Australian dollars ($7.3m) while individuals could face a prison sentence.

The report also discussed how the law could face an even tougher test in the upper house:

“I will fight to get those encryption laws passed,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra after Dreyfus spoke. “I want to see our police have the powers they need to stop terrorists.”

With the passage, speculation is increasing over who will pull their investments out of Australia. One source suggests that Apple may pull out of the country. From Ten Daily:

Apple may pull out of the local market, the Aussie tech industry could be crippled and hackers could crack previously unbreakable codes under “outrageous” encryption legislation the government wants to ram through parliament.

This could see tech companies simply refuse to work with Australian authorities. Experts have pointed to the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, where Apple refused to comply with FBI requests to unlock the suspect’s iPhone, as an example of how international tech giants may respond to such legislation.

There are concerns that such companies could pull out of Australia entirely, rather than work under such a system.

The legislation has been panned by sources as varied as the Law Council of Australia, and Atlassian CEO MIke Cannon-Brookes.

Meanwhile, Gizmodo Australia is noting a large number of tweets opposing the bill. Gizmodo notes the following:

Concerns over the rushed Bill are high – especially as the parliamentary year draws to a close. Today’s amendments have done little to clarify specifics around the potential power that the Bill could give government and law enforcement over digital privacy.

And they certainly don’t address the impact that adding backdoor security access could have on the Australian tech economy on a global scale – especially if you take The European Union’s strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws into consideration.

While the Bill can still be blocked by the Senate – Australian Twitter has been quite vocal over today’s proceedings, especially in regards to the ALP’s involvement.

Already, Australia rushed through a mass Internet censorship bill which was also widely opposed by the public and tech companies. So, it seems that Australia has been taking up the cause of fighting against technology through a two-pronged approach: eliminate online free speech and all encryption. They are certainly trying very hard to crack down on technology in general.

It’s unclear what impact all this will have on the Australian economy. Of course, with larger tech companies joining a large block of smaller tech companies threatening to leave Australia, it’s hard to imagine how hundreds, if not, thousands of jobs are on the line. That alone will have a detrimental effect on the countries economy in general.

Still, despite people pointing to the cliff ahead, Australia seems to be pushing the gas pedal to the floor anyway as the rest of the world looks on in horror.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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