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Turnbull Govt. Plan To Force Handover Of Encrypted Data

Technology companies could be forced to hand over customers’ information, including encrypted conversations, to Australian police and spy agencies under new laws now under consideration.

The controversial proposed legislation – nattily dubbed the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 – was published by the Turnbull Government for public comment yesterday.

According to the Government, it is aimed at tackling the increased popularity of encrypted communications services among criminals and will involve updating interception and access laws to deal with new forms of electronic communications.

Under its provisions, telcos, Internet companies and device manufacturers that refuse to facilitate access to secret data could face fines of up to $10 million.

Government agencies would be given the power to force any provider of communications services and devices to remove electronic protections; provide technical information such as design specifications; install, maintain, test or use software or equipment; assist in accessing devices or services, subject to a warrant; and notify agencies of a change to a system; or a bid to conceal covert activity.

Under the proposed legislation, if a company does not comply with an agency’s demands, it could face fines of up to $10 million for each case. Individuals could face $50,000 fines, but government requests could be challenged in court.

However Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor has stressed that the new laws will definitely not force companies to incorporate so-called “backdoors” into devices such as smartphones – suggestions which have been vigorously opposed in the US by the likes of Apple and Google.

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