I Spy With My Little Phone – New Laws giving access to your phone data

By Cameron Abbott and Colette Légeret

Yesterday, the Australian Government unveiled the draft Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 which aims to compel telecommunication and multi-national tech companies (Providers) to give law enforcement and security agencies (Agencies) access to personal encrypted data of suspected criminals, including terrorists, child sex offenders and criminal organisations.

Cyber Security Minister, Angus Taylor said that in the last 12 months, 200 investigations of serious crimes were impacted due to the inability to access data under existing legislation and that these proposed laws will mean that criminals have no place to hide.

Under the proposed changes, obligations on domestic Providers to assist Agencies are enhanced; assistance obligations are extended to offshore Providers; and computer access warrants will be introduced to allow Agencies to covertly obtain evidence directly from a device.

There have been many concerns about these proposed changes creating “back doors” into personal encrypted data, however the Government insists that encryption is absolutely crucial to protecting Australians and that the legislation excludes Agencies from asking Providers to create weaknesses in their encryption systems.

The proposed changes require Agencies to seek a warrant and receive judicial approval prior to requesting information from Providers. Mr Taylor stressed that computer access warrants would only be granted in relation to serious crimes, that is, crimes where the penalty is three years’ imprisonment or higher.

The proposed changes set out that unauthorised disclosure of information about, or obtained under, a notice is an offence, however, the question remains whether decrypted data will be secure and whether this intrusion is warranted – will additional measures be put in place to protect our privacy?

The Bill is available for public comment here until 10 September 2018 – why not have your say?

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