Revisions eyed for rushed Australia encryption law, Australia/NZ News & Top Stories

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"What about the open source projects that will ask their Australian contributors to stop working on their security code, and businesses who will choose not to employ Australian developers, or decline to open offices in that country?" wrote Danny O'Brien, global director at the EFF.

But whereas the existing laws have allowed the government to request access, the new law gives it the power to compel companies to decrypt certain communications or pay a financial penalty.

The Australian government insists that these are not "back doors" but rather requests for legitimate access (albeit mandatory in most cases).

Australia is the first nation in the so-called "Five Eyes" alliance - also composed of Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Britain - to move ahead with legislation that will nearly inevitably result in a standoff with major private corporations.

"There is a lot here that doesn't make any sense, " Schneier said of the Australian bill. "In many ways, I think it's unworkable".

"This could have a devastating knock-on effect around the world", said Jake Moore, cyber security expert at ESET UK.

But in an eleventh-hour twist, Labour said that despite its reservations, it would pass the bill in the Senate, on the proviso that the coalition agreed to its amendments next year.

PM Scott Morrison has said the legislation is needed to help foil terrorist attacks.

"It's not just the rights of citizens that are potentially compromised by this outcome, but intelligence agencies and law enforcement that are at risk of acting unlawfully", said council president Morry Bailes in a statement.

However, critics have panned the laws as being short-sighted and missing the point of encryption.

It will have "far-reaching consequences" for the privacy and security of encrypted platforms like WhatsApp and Google, and device manufacturers like Apple, Microsoft and Samsung, Ben McConaghy, a Facebook spokesman, told CNN ahead of Thursday's vote. Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said it hampers criminal investigations at all levels.

Apple, meanwhile, said that, "It would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat".

The company's iPhones, due to their strong encryption, are bulwarks of national security around the globe and help protect journalists, human rights workers and people living under repressive regimes.

"This legislation is out of step with surveillance and privacy legislation in Europe and other countries that have strong national security concerns", they said.

Much of the controversy has centred on Schedule 1 of the legislation, which creates a new tiered system of notices that can be issued to communications service providers.

One apparent contradiction confounds technologists.

But under pressure from the opposition, the bill will also now include further scrutiny of the laws in 2019, limiting the powers to only "serious offences" and defining the term "systemic weakness". Amid protests from companies such as Facebook and Google, the government and main opposition struck a deal on Tuesday that should see the legislation passed by parliament this week.

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