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What do Zuck, Sergey, @Jack and Bezos have in common? They don't want encryption broken

Giants join Australia's cryptowar

Opposition to the Australian government's proposed crypto-busting legislation is gathering pace, with internet and telco giants deciding to speak with a single voice.

Local companies like Telstra and Optus have added their names to the Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet, which is opposed the Australian government's plans to force all communications providers to build in systems for state monitoring.

The group also has the support of US giants Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, and Google, as well as Digital Rights Watch, local ISOC chapter Internet Australia, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Law Centre, and the Australian Industry Group.

Other alliance members include telco consumer advocacy group ACCAN, Access Now, Blueprint for Free Speech, Future Wise, Hack for Privacy, IoTAA, and Liberty Victoria.

The international companies under their Digital Industry Policy Group (DIGI) went public in September that it had made a submission to the government's consultation about the bill.

DIGI went public with its concerns about the bill in September, and the new alliance is expected to give local lobbying efforts extra heft.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton described the legislation's scope as “a disturbing first-world benchmark” that “poses real threats to the cyber security and privacy rights of all Australians.”

“Instead of trying to ram this legislation through the committee process and the parliament, the government needs to sit down with stakeholders, engage on the details and collectively come up with workable, reasonable proposals that meet the objective of helping enforcement agencies be more effective in the digital age”.

Lizzy O'Shea of Digital Rights Watch is acting as Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet, and told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's AM program the DIGI members had decided it was their “civic duty” to highlight “just how dangerous” the legislation is.

O'Shea said the concerns should not be dismissed lightly, and added that “I think this is part of a broader policy within the Five Eyes to circumvent encryption”.

As the government slowly makes some of the 15,000 submissions to the bill public, the breadth of opposition is becoming clear.

The Australian Industry Group believes the Assistance and Access Bill 2018's scope is so wide it would turn nearly any business into a potential target for assistance requests, including: “a wide range of manufacturers and industrial solutions providers whose products and services are increasingly networked and digital”.

Technology lawyer for Baker & McKenzie Patric Fair told The Register the bill also needs to be understood in light of other government moves to expand intelligence agency powers.

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Canberra is also in the process of pushing through legislation that would replace the Office of National Assessments with a new Office of National Intelligence (ONI) – and giving that body expanded powers.

Its remit would include collecting domestic information – for example, open source information like social media posts – and the agency would, as the legislation now stands, have access to personal information collected by other agencies.

Fair told The Register the ONI's remit includes collecting local intelligence of political importance to Australia.

He added that the ONI legislation includes a “broad suspension of privacy controls”, and a broad definition of what constitutes “information relating to matters of political, strategic or economic significance to Australia that is accessible to any section of the public” (The Saturday Paper reported this could include posts or accounts set to “private”).

“It's a place where the information that the agencies and police forces that collect the information can go, and there's a clear line between that and the PM in Canberra”, Fair added.

The government told the ABC's AM today the coalition had spent a year consulting with industry on the bill, and added that security agencies needed to keep up with technology. ®

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