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Apple Joins Other Tech Firms in Opposing ‘Deeply Flawed’ Australian Anti-Encryption Law

Apple Joins Other Tech Firms in Opposing ‘Deeply Flawed’ Australian Anti-Encryption Law

Last week, we reported that Australia had passed a new anti-encryption law. Advocates of the “Assistance and Access Bill 2018,” legislation argued the bill was necessary to protect national security, as encrypted communications are used by criminals and terrorist groups to avoid detection.

TechCrunch reports Apple is included in a group of tech firms coming out against the legislation, calling it “deeply flawed.”

A group of U.S. tech giants, including Apple,  Google and Microsoft, have collectively denounced the new so-called “anti-encryption” law passed by the Australian parliament last week.

The bill was passed less than a day after the ruling coalition government secured the votes from opposition Labor lawmakers, despite strong objection from tech companies and telcos.

“The new Australian law is deeply flawed, overly broad, and lacking in adequate independent oversight over the new authorities,” said the Reform Government Surveillance coalition in a statement. The tech companies added that the law would “undermine the cybersecurity, human rights, or the right to privacy of our users.”

The firms also called on Aussie lawmakers to “promptly address these flaws when it reconvenes” in 2019. The coalition includes Microsoft, Apple, Google, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Oath, LinkedIn, Evernote, Snap, and Twitter.

Apple had spoken out against the law as early as October, stating the law would be a “huge risk to our digital security.” Apple went on to say that it is “wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who post a threat.”

CNET last week provided a breakdown on the Australian bill:

  • 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.”