A new law has been announced in Australia which, if passed, will allow the state to force global technology companies such as Facebook and Google, to help police decrypt users’ messages which they believe were sent by extremists and criminals. Experts have warned that the weakened encryption could lead to hackers gaining access to messages too.
The new law was announced on Friday and is based on Britain’s Investigatory Powers Act 2016, dubbed the Snooper's Charter. The new law, which will give the courts the ability to order tech companies to decrypt communications quickly, will be introduced in the Australian Parliament by November.
Speaking to the media, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, said:
“We’ve got a real problem in that the law enforcement agencies are increasingly unable to find out what terrorists and drug traffickers and paedophile rings are up to because of the very high levels of encryption...Where we can compel it, we will, but we will need the cooperation from the tech companies.”
Turnbull said that the tech companies have a “very libertarian culture” but know “morally” that they should agree to government demands to decrypt users' content. The Attorney-General, George Brandis, said that the growth of encrypted communication applications such as Signal and iMessage were “potentially the greatest degradation of intelligence and law enforcement capability that we have seen in our lifetime.”
The Australian Federal Police has said that encrypted traffic has increased from three to 55 percent in the last few years and that 65 percent of organised crime investigations including terrorism and paedophile rings involved encryption.