Australia Pushes Google and Facebook to Remove Encryption

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With every terrorist event that takes place anywhere in the world comes a new excuse in one country or the other to push on a more intense government online surveillance. The most recent move was made by Australia, which is one of the Five Eyes Alliance and hence is one of the 5 countries in the world pushing for government surveillance and voting against internet privacy. These countries include Canada, UK, US, and New Zealand. The UK already started with the Investigatory Powers Act and now Australia has started to follow. Soon the rest of the members will join in.

Australia has recently proposed a law that will pressure internet companies like Facebook, WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook), and Google to lower, or even remove, their messaging encryption level. This law is being placed for the sake of giving the Federal Police in Australia the edge needed to be able to monitor computer networks and devices.

The Attorney General of Australia, George Brandis, referred to encryption placed by online messaging companies, as “greatest degradation of intelligence and law enforcement capability”. This gave the public a more clear idea about where things are heading. His remark pushed the government to pressure companies like Google and Facebook to lower their encryption levels in their messaging services under the umbrella of ‘help in the fight against terrorism”.

The government used a persuasive argument stating that they require the internet companies to voluntarily help in the investigations, however, in reality the new law is very similar to that of the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act in which it will obligate these companies to cooperate with the government in Australia. According to the government, if this law is passed, it will improve their investigatory powers against all types of crimes and terrorism greatly.

Apparently Facebook did not buy it. The spokesman of the social networking giant, which owns WhatsApp as well, stated that the company provided data to police and intelligence agencies 657 times last year alone.

He further commented,  “Weakening encrypted systems for (law enforcement) would mean weakening it for everyone. We appreciate the important work law enforcement does and we understand their need to carry out investigations. That’s why we already have a protocol in place to respond to requests where we can.”

Other experts have warned that if encryption are weakened this can be a 2 faced weapon in that as much as it can help in preventing criminal and terrorist threats, it will also expose the users to risks of unwanted intrusions from cyber criminals. Sadly politicians like Brandis do not take that point into any consideration.

Every time an issue like this arises, politicians claim that a fair argument will take place, however the term “for the sake of national security” always tends to win the argument and from how things are looking in Australia, it seems to be that killing internet privacy is winning again.