Proposed Australia Law Threatens Companies With £5.6 Million Fines Because it Doesn't Understand Encryption

By Tom Pritchard on at

Remember last year when the Australian Attorney General declared that the laws of mathematics were somehow subservient to the laws of Australia? Now there's a baffling new law being proposed that would hit tech companies with a $10 million AUD (£5.6 million) fine for failing to hand over encrypted data when presented with a warrant.

So far big tech companies generally do hand over encrypted information where possible, but most of the issue surrounding encryption stem from end-to-end encryption that they don't have access too. Law enforcement and security agencies around the world have been pushing for back doors to be installed in services like WhatsApp and iMessage, but so far none of the biggest names have budged and caved in. For the obvious reason being that a back door will never be exclusively available to the authorities.

It's notable that this proposal specifically mentions accessing encrypted messages, because apparently Australia can't fully comprehend how the whole system works. Much like our own government here in the UK. Angus Taylor, the minister for law enforcement and cybersecurity, told Reuters:

“Our legislation for telecommunication intercepts, being able to access data, in order to investigate and prosecute criminal activity, with a warrant, is no longer fit for purpose.

Whether it’s pedophiles or terrorists or drug dealers, it makes sure we have legislation fit for purpose in a modern era.”

No one could possibly complain about authorities wanting to bring criminals to justice, or accessing digital data to help them in the process. The thing is about encryption that you can't just decided when it is and isn't convenient. Backdoor access to harmful to everyone, and that's the only way companies can actually hand over end-to-end encrypted data remotely. This is assuming authorities don't have access to an unlocked physical device.

The good news is that this is only a proposal and hasn't even been presented to parliament yet. It's also nice to know it's not just our own government being mind-numbingly stupid and ignorant about all things tech, but that's still not a particularly comforting situation to find ourselves in. [Reuters]