Apple sends top executives to lobby Australian government over proposed encryption laws

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2017
Apple has sent top privacy executives to Australia twice over the past month to discuss proposed cybersecurity laws that could compel technology companies to provide law enforcement agencies access to encrypted customer messages.




Citing unnamed sources, The Sydney Morning Herald reports Apple met with Australian Attorney-General George Brandis and members of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's government on Tuesday to talk over the cybersecurity measures.

At least one of the engagements was announced on Monday, when Brandis said he planned to meet with Apple executives in hopes of persuading the company to share encrypted data with the country's spy and law enforcement agencies.

According to sources familiar with the talks, Apple maintained its strong stance in favor of consumer privacy, saying it does not want to see laws updated to block companies from using encryption technology, the report said. Further, Apple is opposed to furnishing government agencies with cryptographic keys that would allow access to secure messages.

Apple in its meetings with Australian officials looked to cut down on additional regulation and legal obligations that could potentially result from the new laws, sources said.

Turnbull last week proposed a set of updated cybersecurity laws that would force tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google to provide access end-to-end encrypted communications if obliged to do so by court order. The regulations, which the Turnbull administration is looking to get on the books by year's end, are modeled after the UK's Investigatory Powers Act.

"We've got a real problem in that the law enforcement agencies are increasingly unable to find out what terrorists and drug traffickers and pedophile rings are up to because of the very high levels of encryption," Turnbull said. "Where we can compel it, we will, but we will need the cooperation from the tech companies."

Exactly how the government intends to enforce the proposed rules remains unclear.

End-to-end encryption systems rely on cryptographic keys to encrypt plain text messages as they travel through servers between devices. Importantly, service providers do not have access to private keys and are therefore unable to access conversations.

Members of Turnbull's administration who met with Apple said the government does not want to create backdoors to messaging services, nor does it want to weaken encryption, sources said. Apple's recent meetings were in part meant help the government decide how best to overcome these substantial technical hurdles, the report said.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    The Turnbull government keeps saying they don't want a backdoor, yet they constantly infer being able to obtain decoded versions of encrypted communications, i.e. a backdoor. Worse still they frequently frame encrypted service providers as prioritising the protection of terrorist's privacy over the public's safety. That's utter garbage.
    lolliverSolimattinozanton zuykovlongpathtzm41watto_cobralostkiwijbdragonjony0
  • Reply 2 of 17
    steveausteveau Posts: 168member
    A court issued warrant for a law enforcemaent agency to obtain a transcript of a person's calls from the service provider does not require the government to have the key to the backdoor, but it does require the serice provider to have them and my understanding is that there is no backdoor in Apple's system (unless you have access to an unlocked handset), so I am not sure what they are trying to do.
    Soliwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 17
    prokipprokip Posts: 133member
    Prim Minister Turnbull (Trumbull to Spicer) needs anything to get people to stop thinking about his incompetence.  Turnbull is know locally as a 'fizzer'.  That is a fire cracker with great hopes that it will give us a good outcome, like a big bang, but instead fails to explode but just fizzes after it is lit, giving us...nothing.
    watto_cobralostkiwilolliverjony0
  • Reply 4 of 17
    I know it won't happen (and arguably should not happen), but the vindictive jerk in me would like to see Apple pull out of Australia the day any such law goes into effect.  Of course, it wouldn't actually hurt any of the politicians were that to happen, just the people who work in related jobs, and we've seen how much politicians actually care about people lately.
    longpathlostkiwi
  • Reply 5 of 17
    mobiusmobius Posts: 373member
    Look what this idiot has to say about encryption:

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2140747-laws-of-mathematics-dont-apply-here-says-australian-pm/

    “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia,” said Turnbull.

     :D 


    longpathlostkiwijbdragonjony0
  • Reply 6 of 17
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,884member
    Being a devil’s advocate I see most techies are vehemently opposed to any kind of cooperation between tech companies and the government regarding encryption. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are regularly trotted out. So let me ask a loaded question. If a terrorist attack occurred in your town and family and friends were killed who would you blame for not knowing about it or doing something to stop it? Would you blame the government? Why? It would also seem you are willing to accept the fact that more of us could be killed at any point because authorities are blind to what is being planned. The price of freedom from government snooping is sudden and arbitrary death?

    Really, I would just like to know who you will blame for the next attack. The same government you despise?
    securtis
  • Reply 7 of 17
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,884member

    I know it won't happen (and arguably should not happen), but the vindictive jerk in me would like to see Apple pull out of Australia the day any such law goes into effect.  Of course, it wouldn't actually hurt any of the politicians were that to happen, just the people who work in related jobs, and we've seen how much politicians actually care about people lately.
    Well, seeing that Apple just agreed to store all Chinese citizen’s data in Chinese servers operated by third party’s (wink, wink) I don’t think Apple would have any problem complying with Australian law should it come to pass. 
  • Reply 8 of 17
    grogboggrogbog Posts: 6member
    Waste of time, Australia's gone to pot.
  • Reply 9 of 17
    vvswarupvvswarup Posts: 327member
    Governments around the world have gotten the memo that backdoors are a nonstarter. They know that that word alone is enough for their mic to be turned off then and there. Populaces are too smart to believe them about national security. But now, all that politicians are doing is playing with the wording. They're still demonizing tech companies for implementing E2E encryption technology. 

    E2E encryption by definition means that only the sender and receiver of encrypted information have the key to decrypt the information. Designing the encryption system with a way to deliberately break makes it weaker. If an unrelated third party keeps an encryption key, it's not E2E any longer and it is inherently less secure than E2E. 
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 10 of 17
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,884member
    vvswarup said:
    Governments around the world have gotten the memo that backdoors are a nonstarter. They know that that word alone is enough for their mic to be turned off then and there. Populaces are too smart to believe them about national security. But now, all that politicians are doing is playing with the wording. They're still demonizing tech companies for implementing E2E encryption technology. 

    E2E encryption by definition means that only the sender and receiver of encrypted information have the key to decrypt the information. Designing the encryption system with a way to deliberately break makes it weaker. If an unrelated third party keeps an encryption key, it's not E2E any longer and it is inherently less secure than E2E. 
    Nonsense. The governments of China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Iran and others have certainly not gotten the memo. And your technobabble means nothing when it comes to what governments can or cannot do. 
  • Reply 11 of 17
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,803member
    I hope that we never reach a point where a non-trivial country passes a law that is irreconcilably incompatible with Apple's approach to encryption and privacy. But if we do reach that point, I'm very curious to see how Apple responds. Does Apple pull out of the country? Does Apple figure out a way to comply with the law in that country without jeopardizing the rest of its user base around the world? It will be a tough nut to crack. 
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 12 of 17
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,803member
    lkrupp said:
    Being a devil’s advocate I see most techies are vehemently opposed to any kind of cooperation between tech companies and the government regarding encryption. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are regularly trotted out. So let me ask a loaded question. If a terrorist attack occurred in your town and family and friends were killed who would you blame for not knowing about it or doing something to stop it? Would you blame the government? Why? It would also seem you are willing to accept the fact that more of us could be killed at any point because authorities are blind to what is being planned. The price of freedom from government snooping is sudden and arbitrary death?

    Really, I would just like to know who you will blame for the next attack. The same government you despise?
    People are killed all the time. The proper apportionment of blame depends on the details of the situation. 

    If a "terrorist" attack (whatever that is) resulted in the deaths of my friends or family, I would first blame the terrorists. If I were to blame anyone else it would really depend on the details. Were the "terrorists" incompetent goofs who left all kinds of obvious indicators of what they were going to do that were ignored by law enforcement? If so, then I'd be upset with law enforcement. Were the "terrorists" highly competent, determined individuals who did a very good job of covering their tracks? If so, then I wouldn't blame law enforcement -- I recognize that we will never achieve 100% success in stopping killers (whether we call them "terrorists" or not).  
    cpdpranomelolliveroseamejony0
  • Reply 13 of 17
    anomeanome Posts: 941member
    lkrupp said:
    Being a devil’s advocate I see most techies are vehemently opposed to any kind of cooperation between tech companies and the government regarding encryption. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are regularly trotted out. So let me ask a loaded question. If a terrorist attack occurred in your town and family and friends were killed who would you blame for not knowing about it or doing something to stop it? Would you blame the government? Why? It would also seem you are willing to accept the fact that more of us could be killed at any point because authorities are blind to what is being planned. The price of freedom from government snooping is sudden and arbitrary death?

    Really, I would just like to know who you will blame for the next attack. The same government you despise?

    I think most reasonable people blame the perpetrators. If encryption is such an impediment in preventing terrorism, then why couldn't they stop the IRA attacks of the 1980s? Or Lockerbie? Or Oklahoma City? All done before end-to-end encryption of this type was available in consumer products.

    lolliveroseamejony0
  • Reply 14 of 17
    lkrupp said:
    Being a devil’s advocate I see most techies are vehemently opposed to any kind of cooperation between tech companies and the government regarding encryption. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are regularly trotted out. So let me ask a loaded question. If a terrorist attack occurred in your town and family and friends were killed who would you blame for not knowing about it or doing something to stop it? Would you blame the government? Why? It would also seem you are willing to accept the fact that more of us could be killed at any point because authorities are blind to what is being planned. The price of freedom from government snooping is sudden and arbitrary death?

    Really, I would just like to know who you will blame for the next attack. The same government you despise?
    This is Australia, we have no Bill of Rights (https://www.humanrights.gov.au/how-are-human-rights-protected-australian-law) the government is pretty much free to do what they like until called out or the next election (when they would likely get tossed for whatever they have / have not been up to).

    As somewhat of a 'techie', I'm not opposed to Tech Companies assisting lawful investigations using suitable means. I'm opposed to deliberate weakening of security in a vain attempt to increase their ability to 'snoop'.

    Let's take iMessage as an example. Right now, you can converse on that platform and the messages are encrypted. Now, let's assume that we get to the point where the public and private keys have to be stored by Apple and provided under a legal request so that intercepted and encrypted messages can be accessed by investigators. 

    How does that change things for the regular person? Well, it doesn't unless you begin conversing with someone the government is watching and then your keys may be sought and your messages accessed. 

    How does a terrorist react? I'd expect that they would simply pre-encrypt anything before sending it meaning that while the law can now access iMessages they still will not be able to read the actual content they are interested in.

    So, I fail to see how we managed to achieve anything by allowing this. Worse still, given the various governments lack of ability to keep stuff secret and away from hackers and the like mean that this action is more likely going to end with the only regular preson's data being inspected and made available.
    lolliveranomeoseamejony0
  • Reply 15 of 17
    People get up in arms over E2E encryption and govt. snooping, yet willingly put google and amazon listening devices in their homes and pay for the privilege   ;). I agree with LKrupp, once there is another attack with death on a scale of 9/11 who will be to blame, especially if it was setup on telegram or WhatsApp? 
  • Reply 16 of 17
    oseameoseame Posts: 44member
    securtis said:
    People get up in arms over E2E encryption and govt. snooping, yet willingly put google and amazon listening devices in their homes and pay for the privilege   ;). I agree with LKrupp, once there is another attack with death on a scale of 9/11 who will be to blame, especially if it was setup on telegram or WhatsApp? 
    If this paves the way for terrorists rolling their own encryption, finding more obscure communications formats making not just the content of their messages but also the recipients unavailable, and a world in which all your communications are read and assessed by AI on behalf of Google/Facebook and the government for marketing and security purposes, will you blame the government? Will you blame Global Megacorps? Will you blame yourself?
    edited July 2017
  • Reply 17 of 17
    lkrupp said:

    I know it won't happen (and arguably should not happen), but the vindictive jerk in me would like to see Apple pull out of Australia the day any such law goes into effect.  Of course, it wouldn't actually hurt any of the politicians were that to happen, just the people who work in related jobs, and we've seen how much politicians actually care about people lately.
    Well, seeing that Apple just agreed to store all Chinese citizen’s data in Chinese servers operated by third party’s (wink, wink) I don’t think Apple would have any problem complying with Australian law should it come to pass. 

    Sadly, I think it's likely you are correct.
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