A hastily-enacted Australian encryption law has come under fire from a consortium of U.S. tech companies that includes Microsoft.
“[The consortium] has consistently opposed any government action that would undermine the cybersecurity, human rights, or the right to privacy of our users,” a statement from the Reform Government Surveillance consortium explains. “Unfortunately, the Assistance and Access Bill that was just passed through the Australian Parliament will do just that. The new Australian law is deeply flawed, overly broad, and lacking in adequate independent oversight over the new authorities. RGS urges the Australian Parliament to promptly address these flaws when it reconvenes.”
The Reform Government Surveillance (RGS) consortium is made up of some of tech’s biggest hitters, including Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. It was formed to ensure that “the world’s governments address and reform the laws and practices regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information.”
“RGS therefore strongly believes that current surveillance laws and practices must be reformed,” the consortium says of its purpose. “Government surveillance must be consistent with established global norms of privacy, free expression, security, and the rule of law. Government law enforcement and intelligence efforts should be rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to strong oversight.”
Australia’s new Assistance and Access Bill was passed rather quickly last week after the country’s two leading political parties struck a deal. If passed into law, it would give police in Australia the right to force companies, including websites, to help its government “hack, implant malware, undermine encryption or insert backdoors.”
That this bill is controversial is an understatement, and it’s not surprising that it’s come under fire by the tech firms that will be forced to adhere to its vague and loophole-filled rules.
In addition to RGS, Cisco and Mozilla have filed separate complaints with the Australian government.