Australia passes law forcing tech firms to hand over encrypted data
The law, which has been opposed by tech giants, has caused heated debate over national security and privacy at a time governments across the globe are grappling with how to access encrypted information to monitor illegal activities.
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Under the law, Australian security services can force local and international communication giants such as Google, Facebook or WhatsApp to remove encryption, help conceal government snooping and hand over data linked to suspected illegal activities. Police must still first obtain a warrant.
The new law passed the Senate after a last minute deal was struck with the opposition Labour Party, which had demanded for more oversight and safeguards in how the law is used. Under the deal, the coalition government agreed to add amendments next year. The bill passed the lower house earlier on Thursday.
The conservative government has argued police need greater powers to access personal communications to thwart terror attacks and organized crime.
Global communications firms have warned the law would force them to create vulnerabilities in their products that could then be used by other bad actors to gain a back door to users’ data. They are also concerned about how the law’s secrecy provisions will impact their business models and consumer privacy.
The Australian Law Council, a body representing the legal profession, supports giving intelligence agencies additional powers to ensure security but had warned of unintended consequences of ramming the bill through.