Australia passes new encryption laws that could force tech companies to offer access to encrypted messages

Australia has passed that encryption legislation, which means companies including Apple, Facebook and Google could be forced to “build new capabilities” to thwart encrypted messages.

As reported by CNET, the legislation calls on companies to provide three levels of assistance to law enforcement and select government agencies:

  • Technical Assistance Requests: Companies provide voluntary assistance to aid certain agencies as they perform duties relating to “Australia’s national interests, the safeguarding of national security and the enforcement of the law.”
  • Technical Assistance Notices: Requires companies to provide assistance that is “reasonable, proportionate, practicable and technically feasible.” Providers are able to use existing means like encryption keys to decrypt communications.
  • Technical Capability Notices: Requires companies to build a new capability that enables it to provide assistance to law enforcement agencies and government bodies. The notice cannot force a provider to build or implement a capability to remove electronic protection, such as encryption.

Technical Assistance and Technical Capability Notices both require an underlying warrant or authorization, the bill reads.

Australian government officials have been cautious of using the word “backdoor,” but tech companies worry that the law is essentially a pathway for such tools. Speaking about the piece of legislation, Apple stated that it is “wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who post a threat.”

What Apple and other tech companies also worry about is the precedent this could set for other countries. Apple has long opposed the idea of creating a backdoor for government officials, but this new Australian legislation could hurt Apple’s efforts around the world.

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