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The Australian Government requests access to encrypted communication

Encrypted Communication Access

In the wake of recent UK terrorist attacks, the Australian Government plans to increase internet surveillance by compelling big corporations like Google, Facebook and Apple to give security agencies full access to encrypted communication in alleged counter-terrorism actions.

PM Malcolm Turnbull and Labor leader Bill Shorten agreed to give the law enforcement unrestricted access to encrypted messages and social media, causing concern amid internet users.

Encrypted messaging applications are also used by criminals and terrorists. At the moment, much of this traffic is difficult for our security agencies to decrypt and, indeed, for our Five Eyes partners as well,” Turnbull said on Tuesday, in delivering a national security update to the federal parliament.

The measures were severely criticised by cyber-security experts and online communities who have raised concerns about the effects of weakening the system. Encryption is vastly used to keep information secure as encrypted messages are scrambled into a code using an algorithm, meaning that if intercepted, the message cannot be deciphered.

Experts warned that the Government-proposed measures can increase the risk of exposing vital data about citizens, making them extremely vulnerable to hacker attacks.

In response, the Australian PM stated that “The privacy of a terrorist can never be more important than public safety – never. And online civil society is as achievable as an offline one, and the rights and protections of the vast, overwhelming majority of Australians, must outweigh the rights of those who will do them harm.

In an interview for Sky News, Senator Brandis said that the current legislation is not nearly enough to impose “obligations of cooperation” on major companies. He also said that “growing awareness by the companies of the reputational harm they suffer, or they would suffer, if they are seen to be not doing everything that they can to assist with law enforcement and intelligence agencies to thwart the use of their systems by terrorists“.

There is no clear information on how the government plans to gain access to encrypted content as many companies such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Signal and Wickr MeAs are using such protocols especially designed so that providers themselves will not be able to break.

There has been a lot of controversy lately regarding online privacy and government snooping as many countries are trying to force major companies by law to give up private data about their users. Unfortunately, such actions can lead to a weak system where every citizen’s right to privacy is at stake.

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Posted on by in Privacy

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