The controversial anti-encryption bill was passed on Thursday by Australia’s parliament, providing law enforcement agencies with the power to request tech firms to decrypt data after receiving technical requests.
According to the new law, tech companies will also be forced to build interception tools that can be used by Australian law enforcement to spy on persons of interest.
Some analysts say that the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 also allows Australian police to request aid in inserting backdoors in software that uses encryption.
However, "In the face of overwhelming evidence from many submitters to the committee's inquiry, the government has remained adamant that the access bill could not lead to the creation of backdoors," said MP Mark Dreyfus.
Although multiple tech companies have spoken out since the first draft of the law was published, with Apple calling it "dangerously ambiguous" and a handful of other tech firms asking the Australian government and parliament to amend or completely shut down the bill.
“Let’s just make Australians safe over Christmas. We will pass the legislation, inadequate as it is, so we can give our security agencies some of the tools they say they need,” Bill Shorten told reporters.
As it is, the enacted law requires institutions not complying to technical notices or request to pay fines of up to A$10 million ($7.3 million) and individuals to get prison time if they fail in any manner to provide the law agencies with the requested data.
Australia's new encryption law seems tailored to match Five Eyes' past statements perfectly
The Australian anti-encryption bill does not come as a surprise seeing that the nations which are part of the Five Eyes intelligence network (i.e., United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) have all mentioned the fact that their national security is put at risk by the fact that criminals are protected by encryption tech nation states are unable to break.
Furthermore, the Five Eyes network also brought up the protection provided by the communication channels offered by encrypted apps which cannot be monitored or recorded during investigations.
According to Reuters, the Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI) comprised of tech firms such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter said that “This legislation is out of step with surveillance and privacy legislation in Europe and other countries that have strong national security concerns."
Moreover, "Several critical issues remain unaddressed in this legislation, most significantly the prospect of introducing systemic weaknesses that could put Australians’ data security at risk.”