Australia passed controversial cybersecurity legislation on Thursday, requiring tech giants like Facebook and WhatsApp to help security services crack communications from terrorists and suspected criminals. The project has sparked heated debates on national security and privacy issues.
The ruling conservative coalition has cited the need to allow the security services to investigate serious crimes such as terrorism or pedophilia, citing the case of three men accused of using encrypted messaging to plan attacks. Giants like Google and Facebook accuses the text of making them vulnerable to hackers while civil liberties advocates denounce threats to privacy.
New resources for the Australian security services and members of the “Five Eyes” alliance
Canberra will be able to force companies in the sector to lift their technological protections, hide the secret operations of the police force and help the latter to access smartphone data and messaging. Companies would face fines of several million dollars if they refused to comply with investigators’ requests, the government said in August. They could, however, challenge the investigators’ requests in court. Australian authorities can request that their requests remain secret. The Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI), which represents the big players in the sector like Facebook, Twitter, Google or Amazon, argued that the law would force them to create loopholes in their systems that could be exploited by hackers.
The Conservative government wanted to see the law passed before the end of the parliamentary session this week, in preparation for the holiday season. He joined the Labor opposition by concluding a compromise providing in particular for an evaluation of the text in 18 months. The new law could allow intelligence services of the “Five Eyes” alliance (Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, United States and Canada) to bypass obstacles related to the legislation of their countries to access information. devices and encrypted content, observed Monique Mann, researcher at Queensland University of Technology.