Govt wants to access your phone

Draft legislation released earlier this week will give the Government power to access your smartphone data.

The laws will compel tech entities such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Telstra to hand over sensitive data when requested or else face fines of up to $10 million.

Legislation will have to be approved by Federal Parliament, and if it does, your smartphone data is effectively up for grabs any time the Government sees fit.

The laws have been proposed as part of the Turnbull Government’s crackdown on terrorism and organised crime, which use encrypted services to conduct activities currently outside of Australian spy agency and law enforcement jurisdiction.

They will target telecommunication providers, device-makers and social media entities, forcing them to disclose encrypted information on devices and social media platforms. However, it will not force them to build in a ‘back door’ for the Government to freely access data.

Such access could weaken security protocols and give hackers easy access to sensitive data.

“It’s reassuring they’re not talking back doors,” Nigel Phair, director of the NSW Canberra Cyber told news.com.au. “That would not be good for society.”

However, there are concerns that, given the nature of the companies being subjected to the proposed laws, there is reason to believe that international laws may excuse them from handing over data.

“How well this plays out in terms of the three stages of compliance will be another factor altogether,” said Mr Phair.

“You can put a fine on it all you like, but if these companies are domiciled off in another country it will be very difficult to enforce their compliance.”

The Government precluding ‘back door’ protocols that would weaken cyber systems should soothe opponents of the law, but many tech pundits are calling for clarification on the technical details before giving the laws the nod.

“We believe encryption is absolutely crucial to protecting Australians. So, the legalisation explicitly excludes the potential for law enforcement to ask industry to create a weakness in their encryption systems,” Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor told the ABC.

The new laws hope to give police improved powers to fight terrorism and other crime, but there are concerns of individual rights being exploited, especially considering that any software on your phone that connects to the internet could be seen as fair game.

“Any company that writes software that could get installed on a computer connected to a network will become a ‘designated communications provider’ if you were wondering how broad ‘this not-a-backdoor legislation’ is,” warned IT expert Justin Warren on Twitter.

But Mr Phair said there are already plenty of ways for law enforcement to track your online behaviour through data analysis, it’s the actual content of your messages that they’re now after.

“There’s lots of other ways to get data, we leave digital footprints about ourselves everywhere, there’s lots of metadata out there that’s easy to get. However, content is another thing and content is difficult to get,” he said.

Under the new law, companies could be asked to help locate a suspected criminal, or to install software or equipment to help authorities gather information.

Read more at www.news.com.au

Do you see this as a breach of privacy, even if you have nothing to hide? Or are you okay with the Government having access to your messages, posts and emails? Would it be fair for the Government to access your phone if it was suspicious of you cheating the Age Pension? How far can it go before it goes too far?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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