Australia mulls law to give police access to encrypted data


Sydney, July 14: The Australian government has proposed a new law by that will force Facebook, Google and other tech companies to give law enforcement agencies access to encrypted user data to keep a check on terrorists and criminals.

A report in The Guardian on Friday quoted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as saying that the law would be modelled on Britain’s Investigatory Powers Act, passed in November, which gave intelligence agencies some of the most extensive surveillance powers in the western world.

“We need to ensure that the Internet is not used as a dark place for bad people to hide their criminal activities from the law,” the report quoted Turnbull as saying.

The bill would allow courts to order tech companies to quickly unlock communications. It is expected to be introduced to Parliament by November.

Under the law, police would need warrants to access the communications.

Turnbull, however, said his government had no plans to be involved in the use of a “back door” into programmes that would give them access to encrypted messages on platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram.

“A back door is typically a flaw in a software programme that perhaps the developer of the software programme is not aware of, and that somebody who knows about it can exploit,” Turnbull said.

“If there are flaws in software programmes, obviously, that’s why you get updates on your phone and your computer all the time. So we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about lawful access,” he added.