ICT industry slams new Federal encryption bill

| October 30, 2018

The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), has outlined its doubts about the Federal Government’s Assistance and Access Bill 2018 in its current form.

The peak member body for the ICT industry is dubious about the effect this proposed legislation may have on multi-national and Australian technology companies, large and small, that provide services in Australia and will be captured by the Bill.

Encryption and other forms of electronic protection are vital security measures that keep private, commercial and Government data safe, and make the communication and devices of Australian citizens more secure.

However, these security measures are also being employed by terrorists, child sex offenders and criminal organisations to mask illegal conduct.

To address these threats, the Government has developed the Encryption Bill to secure critical assistance from the communications industry and enable law enforcement to effectively investigate serious crimes in the digital era.

Public submissions on the draft Assistance and Access Bill have now closed. An amended Bill is before the Parliament and has been referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for review.

“The AIIA’s concern is that the new compliance requirements proposed by the Bill may well mean that Australian citizens, government agencies and businesses will no longer be able to access the best security services and products due to vendors potentially withdrawing from the Australian market.

National SMEs and start-ups captured by the legislation may also find themselves locked out of international markets with their products being viewed as untrustworthy”, explains Rob Fitzpatrick, CEO of the AIIA.

New research released by the Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet shows a majority of Australians are deeply alarmed by the proposed Bill. An overwhelming 84.8 per cent of Australians polled say it is important or very important that anything the Government does to combat crime should not create weaknesses in Australia’s online security systems and make it easier for criminals and terrorists to cause further harm to everyday Australians.

“A significant majority –  80.9 per cent of people asked – are concerned about the powers implied in the Encryption Bill. These could allow the Government to force companies to change their products and services to enable the interception and collection of someone’s personal data, both without their knowledge and without the authorisation by a judge.

The AIIA is a member of the Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet, who represent a group of consumers, human rights organisations, business, industry and a wide range of technology companies collectively calling for the Bill to be rejected in its current form, believing it poses a danger to Australia’s cybersecurity.

“The AIIA supports the Alliance in its plea to Government to stop ignoring the concerns of technology experts and listen to the legitimate concerns raised by its citizens and industry. For legislation with such far ranging possible impacts, an open dialogue alongside a heightened level of care is essential to protect against the unintended consequence of making Australians less safe.”