Apple, other US tech giants denounce Australian 'anti-encryption' bill

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2018
Apple and a cadre of U.S. tech companies on Monday signed a letter condemning Australia's recent passage of a cybersecurity bill that bolsters law enforcement and government efforts to obtain access to encrypted messages.

MessagesApple's Messages in iOS.


The Reform Government Surveillance, which includes Apple, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Oath, Snap and Twitter, is the latest tech consortium to voice opposition to Australia's "Assistance and Access Bill 2018," which flew through parliament last week.

According to a copy of the letter, seen by TechCrunch, the tech group called the bill "deeply flawed" and vowed to pressure Australia's government to "promptly address these flaws when it reconvenes."

"The new Australian law is deeply flawed, overly broad, and lacking in adequate independent oversight over the new authorities," the coalition said in a statement.

Like previous condemnations, many of which arrived after the bill's passage last Thursday, the Reform Government Surveillance claims the new mandate seeks to "undermine the cybersecurity, human rights, or the right to privacy of our users."

Pushed through on the last sitting day of parliament before summer break, the Assistance and Access Bill 2018 sets forth a number of guidelines for accessing secure communications in the wake of strengthening encryption standards. Australia is one of many countries seeking to strike a balance on encryption that provides both consumer protection and a clear path for national security operations.

At issue are requests for technical assistance that can, in some cases, compel private companies to decrypt customer communications. Of particular interest to tech firms are so-called technical capability notices, which critics argue grants law enforcement agencies and select government bodies the power to force the creation of backdoors into secure systems.

The requests and notices are served alongside a warrant, but typically come with a gag order. Further, failure to comply with a notice incurs a fine of A$10 million (about $7.2 million) for corporations.

Australia's government says it "has no interest in undermining systems that protect the fundamental security of communications," but tech firms like Apple argue the bill's language is too vague and could lead to abuse. For example, the bill says companies cannot be forced into implementing "systemic weaknesses" or "systemic vulnerabilities" as a result of a TAN, though said weaknesses and vulnerabilities are not narrowly defined.

A similar argument was proffered in a letter Apple submitted to the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in October.

The federal Labor party attempted to modify the legislation last week, but failed to succeed and allowed the bill to pass. Labor leaders vowed amendments will be reviewed when parliament reconvenes.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,811member
    I think Apple should suspend iPhone sales for a while. Australia isn’t the that big a market, and with recent price rises no doubt smaller than it used to be. Do it after Christmas, maybe after everyone is back to school.
    An act like that would raise awareness of what the political class has been up to. And let’s be honest, it isn’t about terrorists. They would just add an encryption layer and carry on terror.
    This bill was about finding out which of us don’t agree with our betters.

    The federal Labor party attempted to modify the legislation last week, but failed to succeed and allowed the bill to pass. Labor leaders vowed amendments will be reviewed when parliament reconvenes
    Theatre. Political theatre. The ALP were always going to line up with the rest of the uniparty to support this bill.
    edited December 2018 planetary paul
  • Reply 2 of 15
    The idea of suspending sales in a market doesn't make any sense and would only harm Apple while helping Apple's competitors.
    Also contrary to other posters (on here, but also on other similar posts) Apple is a significant player in the Australian market, and that market is a significant source of revenue for the company as also reflected by the relatively high number of retail stores in Australia.

    Apple does however have significant ability to affect change in legislation, especially as it is a large tax payer in the country, which earns it a place to petition the government about such matters.
    racerhomie3pscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 15
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,240member
    The bill is vague, definitely could lead to abuse of power and only passed parliament because the opposition was afraid that a terrorist incident over the Christmas holiday would be blamed on them for not supporting the bill and jeopardise their chances at the next election.

    We don't solve terrorism with backdoors and cyber-snooping. We solve terrorism by addressing the fundamental social inequalities that give rise to it.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 15
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,574member
    yet Google has no problem helping the Chinese government...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 15
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,811member
    dunks said:
    The bill is vague, definitely could lead to abuse of power and only passed parliament because the opposition was afraid that a terrorist incident over the Christmas holiday would be blamed on them for not supporting the bill and jeopardise their chances at the next election.

    We don't solve terrorism with backdoors and cyber-snooping. We solve terrorism by addressing the fundamental social inequalities that give rise to it.
    Or choosing immigrants from the source. But that would be an ugly choice, so better bandaids and reductions in civil rights.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,811member
    The idea of suspending sales in a market doesn't make any sense and would only harm Apple while helping Apple's competitors.
    Also contrary to other posters (on here, but also on other similar posts) Apple is a significant player in the Australian market, and that market is a significant source of revenue for the company as also reflected by the relatively high number of retail stores in Australia.

    Apple does however have significant ability to affect change in legislation, especially as it is a large tax payer in the country, which earns it a place to petition the government about such matters.
    Yes Australia is probably its fourth or fifth largest market. It’s a wealthy country.  I am suggesting it as marketing. It could be one day. A Tuesday. Call it privacy day. Before the senate passes the bill. The day where the citizen’s right to privacy is celebrated, and people remember the dangers of Big Brother. They could hand out free copies of 1984, feature interviews with ex soviet immigrants on what it was like in places where government spied on its citizens, and appropriately decorate all the billboards and even those peace bollards now littering CBDs with advertising on why Apple isn’t selling iphones for a day.

    heck it could even increase sales overall if done right.

    Let’s not make 2019 like 1984. Hmm, sounds kinda like something I heard once before...
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 7 of 15
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,124member
     Australia is one of many countries seeking to strike a balance on encryption that provides both consumer protection and a clear path for national security operations.


    As an Australian Citizen I see no evidence of "seeking to strike a balance" I do see a lot of political force being applied to get unchecked excesses of power for these departments that has little to do with national safety or security other than being a nice way to wedge the people. 
    jbdragonentropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 15
    Someone cut off Australia’s access to the Internet for a few weeks. See how they like that.
  • Reply 9 of 15
    dunks said:
    The bill is vague, definitely could lead to abuse of power and only passed parliament because the opposition was afraid that a terrorist incident over the Christmas holiday would be blamed on them for not supporting the bill and jeopardise their chances at the next election.

    We don't solve terrorism with backdoors and cyber-snooping. We solve terrorism by addressing the fundamental social inequalities that give rise to it.
    You can’t “solve terrorism”. LOL. 
    redraider11
  • Reply 10 of 15
    djsherlydjsherly Posts: 1,022member
    The idea of suspending sales in a market doesn't make any sense and would only harm Apple while helping Apple's competitors.
    Also contrary to other posters (on here, but also on other similar posts) Apple is a significant player in the Australian market, and that market is a significant source of revenue for the company as also reflected by the relatively high number of retail stores in Australia.

    Apple does however have significant ability to affect change in legislation, especially as it is a large tax payer in the country, which earns it a place to petition the government about such matters.
    Don’t kid yourself. $180m tax on $8b revenue? And a good part of that tax paid was deferred from previous years. https://www.crn.com.au/news/apple-pays-largest-australian-tax-bill-in-years-481971

    Not to single out apple. Lots of companies do it, but if the gross margin on what they sell is in the order of 100%, Apple should be paying at least 5 times that if not for royalty payments to some imagainary rights holding company somewhere that’s not Australia.

    This is idiotic legislation no doubt, but this government is very keen on doubling down on all sorts of stupid shit. Don’t expect much of a change soon.

    williamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 15
    dunks said:
    The bill is vague, definitely could lead to abuse of power and only passed parliament because the opposition was afraid that a terrorist incident over the Christmas holiday would be blamed on them for not supporting the bill and jeopardise their chances at the next election.

    We don't solve terrorism with backdoors and cyber-snooping. We solve terrorism by addressing the fundamental social inequalities that give rise to it.
    You can’t “solve terrorism”. LOL. 
    Not sure the Taliban has any interest in addressing “fundamental social inequalities”... if anything it’s the opposite.

    I suppose we could “solve terrorism” by banning governments and religions...  Nope, that still wouldn’t do it.

    I got it!  Ban humanity. LOL
  • Reply 12 of 15
    dunks said:
    The bill is vague, definitely could lead to abuse of power and only passed parliament because the opposition was afraid that a terrorist incident over the Christmas holiday would be blamed on them for not supporting the bill and jeopardise their chances at the next election.

    We don't solve terrorism with backdoors and cyber-snooping. We solve terrorism by addressing the fundamental social inequalities that give rise to it.
    You can’t “solve terrorism”. LOL. 
    Of course you can.  However, in this case, the solution would be likely worse than the problem...
  • Reply 13 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,928member
    The idea of suspending sales in a market doesn't make any sense and would only harm Apple while helping Apple's competitors.
    Also contrary to other posters (on here, but also on other similar posts) Apple is a significant player in the Australian market, and that market is a significant source of revenue for the company as also reflected by the relatively high number of retail stores in Australia.

    Apple does however have significant ability to affect change in legislation, especially as it is a large tax payer in the country, which earns it a place to petition the government about such matters.
    Apple has a lot of political clout in Australia just as they do worldwide, but not because it pays a lot of taxes there. They don't, the annual tax they claim to owe generally well under $100M/yr even with revenues in excess of $8 Billion in 2017 for example. 

    Their market presence and media ties is what gives them the strength to be heard, and they are. Loudly in most cases. Apple is the most powerful force in tech and wields massive economic clout. They'll make their case, much of it out of the public view.
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 14 of 15
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,364member
    Shame that Apple and the big Android phone makers won’t team up and joint pull out of the country.
  • Reply 15 of 15
    entropys said:
    I think Apple should suspend iPhone sales for a while. 


    they don't need to suspend phone sales. just those items in the phone that are being affected by this. so Australia gets to have no more iMessages. SMS will have to do. possibly no more iCloud or FaceTime either.

    i mean they have, or at least had, phones in the Middle East with no FaceTime due to the legal requirement to pay some extra fee for providing such services. in Japan they at least used to have to make it impossible to mute the shutter sound on the camera due to laws. in China for a while there were no phones with wifi due to some law. iPhones were still quite popular in those areas. okay so most of the iPhones in china were grey market imports from the US but they were still popular. 
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