Australia has a go at removing citizens’ security
The Australian Government is developing its own anti-encryption legislation, modelled on the UK’s Snoopers Charter, a set of rules deemed unfit by the European Court of Justice, reports Telecoms.com (Banking Technology’s sister publication).
The move, which was announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has been built on anti-terrorism messages, as yet another government uses the element of fear in an attempt to lessen citizens online security and damage rights to privacy. According to Reuters, the idea could be passed by Parliament and made law within a matter of months.
“We need to ensure the internet is not used as a dark place for bad people to hide their criminal activities from the law,” says Turnbull. “The reality is, however, that these encrypted messaging applications and voice applications are being used obviously by all of us, but they’re also being used by people who seek to do us harm.”
Telecoms.com has said this numerous times before, but while the technology companies have an obligation to assist governments and their agencies to preserve safety, the weakening of encryption is a short-sighted move, which opens up far more problems than it does solutions. Yes, the government will be able to keep closer track on criminals, but the risks to the individual are far greater.
The Ministers and rule makers who are pushing for the weakening of encryption are looking at such ideas through the eyes of an institution, not the individual. For every win a government agency makes by using this model, tens of thousands of hackers will have penetrated the lives of consumers around the world.
How many people’s bank details will be stolen? How many embarrassing images will be used to blackmail? How many passwords will be used to defraud? Leaving a back-door into encryption algorithms is essentially the same as leaving a welcome mat for hackers; there are more of them in the dark corners of the internet, and, quite frankly, they are better than the security professionals and government IT bods.
And it is not only the bad guys we need to worry about, but the good guys as well. How many examples have there been in recent years of government agencies violating citizens’ rights and bending laws in the name of good? Governments have not proven they are responsible enough to manage such access to the intimate details of our lives, and until they do, they should not be granted access to it.
The world has always been a set of dominoes. There are very few revolutionary or radical laws passed these days, but when a democratic government finds one, the rest are sure to follow before too long. The first domino is wobbling, and our right to privacy and protection is hanging in the balance. When one country finally cracks the question on how to effectively force technology companies to incorporate a back-door into security features, the rest will surely follow.
One saving grace for the individual currently appears to be the technology giants. Usually they are the bad guy with a painted smile on, using brand advertising to create a friendly persona while simultaneously harbouring the same commercial aims as every other corporation around the world, but this time they are on our side. They know how damaging such legislation could be and are making a stance against this archaic and chaotic invasion.
Australia doesn’t usually factor into major developments in the technology world, but it could be front and foremost in the catastrophic annihilation of our democratic right to privacy.