Documents released show how Australian government misled citizens – RT World News


Online media outlet Al Jazeera released unpublished and heavily redacted documents on Tuesday after wrestling with the Australian government for nearly five years over a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The documents paint a disturbing picture of closed-door conversations leading up to the Assistance and Access Act, a sweeping piece of legislation announced in 2017 that became law the following year.

The law requires tech companies like Google, Facebook and Apple to allow police access to encrypted user data. It includes heavy fines to punish companies that refuse to hand over private data to the police. Individual citizens who refuse to cooperate could be sentenced to prison under this particularly harsh policy.

The documents’ revelations include a November 2015 letter in which the Australian Attorney General’s Department addressed heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies about “wider plans to improve the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.” He asked for an entry “to better understand the broader operational and technological context” before advising lawmakers on how best to fight encryption on behalf of law enforcement.

The letter says that the Austrian government “has publicly indicated that it favors strong encryption, but has also acknowledged that this technology is misused by criminals and terrorists,” a theme echoed during the officials’ consultation with Australian tech companies. Writing to the nation’s tech elite, then-Communications and Arts Secretary Heather Smith assured them that “the government will not require the creation of so-called ‘backdoors’ to encryption”, but was simply “seek the co-operation and reasonable assistance of our industry partners in the pursuit of public safety.”


Tech companies and opposition leaders in Australia’s parliament were against the Assistance and Access Act, fearing that the deliberate introduction of systemic weaknesses – supposedly “back door” vulnerabilities to circumvent encryption – would compromise the privacy of law-abiding Australians, make the country’s infrastructure less secure and complicate the process by which Australian police work with foreign agencies on international law enforcement.

Encryption, an ongoing frustration for governments in their fight against terrorism and organized crime, was the subject of widespread public debate in 2015 when Apple refused to hand over private data to the FBI, which the latter deemed crucial. for his investigation of a mass shooting. and attempted bombing in San Bernadino, California.

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