Tech sector meekly waves arms in another bid to get Oz to amend its crypto-busting laws

Rather than binning them and starting again


Comment An alliance of Australia's tech and industry advocacy groups hopes, yet again, to have the country's encryption-busting legislation tweaked before the government goes to an election no later than May.

Rather than a complete repeal of the Telecommunications (Assistance and Access) Act, the Communications Alliance-led group is asking for amendments, some proposed by the Australian Labor Party (but withdrawn to let the bill pass), that it hopes would improve citizens' protection under the legislation.

The focus seems to be "the art of the possible": there's no call for a repeal of the legislation, but rather, an extension of judicial oversight, and more defined limits on agencies' powers under the various notices permitted in the laws.

space view of australia in arty green

Oz opposition folds, agrees to give Australians coal in their stockings this Christmas

READ MORE

The Australian Communications Alliance said the group wants a warrant-based system for all notices, to provide judicial consent before providers have to comply with agency notices.

The group believes the risk of accidental "backdoors" in communications systems and software would be reduced if amendments could "clearly articulate and narrow the limits of what agencies can request".

The range of offences should also be narrowed, the groups has argued.

The legislation passed last year allows agencies to demand assistance accessing the communications of subjects of investigation, if the crime under investigation has a penalty of three years' prison. The industry wants that increased to seven years, to avoid relatively minor investigations being used as the basis for an access or assistance request.

The other wishlist items are that the government consults with communications providers before requiring them to comply with notices, and that providers be able to refuse agencies' notices if they would put the provider in breach with foreign law.

The list of signatories to the submission is the Communications Alliance, the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), the Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA) and Digital Industry Group (DIGI).

As we've previously noted, DIGI is the Australian lobby representing Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, YouTube and others.

How do you break encryption without breaking encryption?

The Register networks correspondent isn't so sure the industry lobbies are taking the right path here.

Somehow improving the regime, whether it's making it harder to get assistance/access notices issued, warrant requirements, or restricting the kinds of investigations that can use the legislation – none of this addresses the core issue: nobody has demonstrated how you can break encryption without breaking encryption.

group of people in suits look at laptop screens

UK spies: You know how we said bulk device hacking would be used sparingly? Well, things have 'evolved'...

READ MORE

GCHQ's November 2018 "virtual crocodile clips" proposal was hailed by some as solving the problem. In reality, it breaks encryption by stripping away trust in user authentication, rather than breaking a cipher.

"Making this bad thing a little less bad" feels at best like minimalism: a tacit admission that tech has lost the debate.

That shouldn't surprise anybody. Since the days when this publication was dubbing '90s-era communications minister Richard Alston the "biggest Luddite in history", tech has had its arguments overruled by Canberra: the NBN's fibre-to-the-home premise was gutted for the expensive "multi-technology model", movie studios can get courts to poison ISPs' DNS records in a regime expanded last year to sweep up Google, and the government's telecommunications data retention scheme happened against tech's objections.

It's hardly encouraging. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Makers of ad blockers and browser privacy extensions fear the end is near
    Overhaul of Chrome add-ons set for January, Google says it's for all our own good

    Special report Seven months from now, assuming all goes as planned, Google Chrome will drop support for its legacy extension platform, known as Manifest v2 (Mv2). This is significant if you use a browser extension to, for instance, filter out certain kinds of content and safeguard your privacy.

    Google's Chrome Web Store is supposed to stop accepting Mv2 extension submissions sometime this month. As of January 2023, Chrome will stop running extensions created using Mv2, with limited exceptions for enterprise versions of Chrome operating under corporate policy. And by June 2023, even enterprise versions of Chrome will prevent Mv2 extensions from running.

    The anticipated result will be fewer extensions and less innovation, according to several extension developers.

    Continue reading
  • I was fired for blowing the whistle on cult's status in Google unit, says contractor
    The internet giant, a doomsday religious sect, and a lawsuit in Silicon Valley

    A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. 

    The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for "religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action." It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to the fellowship.

    In his complaint [PDF], filed in a California Superior Court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd lays down a case that he was fired for expressing concerns over the fellowship's influence at Google, specifically in the GDS. When these concerns were reported to a manager, Lloyd was told to drop the issue or risk losing his job, it is claimed. 

    Continue reading
  • End of the road for biz living off free G Suite legacy edition
    Firms accustomed to freebies miffed that web giant's largess doesn't last

    After offering free G Suite apps for more than a decade, Google next week plans to discontinue its legacy service – which hasn't been offered to new customers since 2012 – and force business users to transition to a paid subscription for the service's successor, Google Workspace.

    "For businesses, the G Suite legacy free edition will no longer be available after June 27, 2022," Google explains in its support document. "Your account will be automatically transitioned to a paid Google Workspace subscription where we continue to deliver new capabilities to help businesses transform the way they work."

    Small business owners who have relied on the G Suite legacy free edition aren't thrilled that they will have to pay for Workspace or migrate to a rival like Microsoft, which happens to be actively encouraging defectors. As noted by The New York Times on Monday, the approaching deadline has elicited complaints from small firms that bet on Google's cloud productivity apps in the 2006-2012 period and have enjoyed the lack of billing since then.

    Continue reading
  • Google recasts Anthos with hitch to AWS Outposts
    If at first you don't succeed, change names and try again

    Google Cloud's Anthos on-prem platform is getting a new home under the search giant’s recently announced Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) portfolio, where it will live on as a software-based competitor to AWS Outposts and Microsoft Azure Stack.

    Introduced last fall, GDC enables customers to deploy managed servers and software in private datacenters and at communication service provider or on the edge.

    Its latest update sees Google reposition Anthos on-prem, introduced back in 2020, as the bring-your-own-server edition of GDC. Using the service, customers can extend Google Cloud-style management and services to applications running on-prem.

    Continue reading
  • Google offers $118m to settle gender discrimination lawsuit
    Don't even think about putting LaMDA on the compensation committee

    Google has promised to cough up $118 million to settle a years-long gender-discrimination class-action lawsuit that alleged the internet giant unfairly pays men more than women.

    The case, launched in 2017, was led by three women, Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, and Kelli Wisuri, who filed a complaint alleging the search giant hires women in lower-paying positions compared to men despite them having the same qualifications. Female staff are also less likely to get promoted, it was claimed.

    Gender discrimination also exists within the same job tier, too, the complaint stated. Google was accused of paying women less than their male counterparts despite them doing the same work. The lawsuit was later upgraded to a class-action status when a fourth woman, Heidi Lamar, joined as a plaintiff. The class is said to cover more than 15,000 people.

    Continue reading
  • Brave Search leaves beta, offers Goggles for filtering, personalizing results
    Freedom or echo chamber?

    Brave Software, maker of a privacy-oriented browser, on Wednesday said its surging search service has exited beta testing while its Goggles search personalization system has entered beta testing.

    Brave Search, which debuted a year ago, has received 2.5 billion search queries since then, apparently, and based on current monthly totals is expected to handle twice as many over the next year. The search service is available in the Brave browser and in other browsers by visiting search.brave.com.

    "Since launching one year ago, Brave Search has prioritized independence and innovation in order to give users the privacy they deserve," wrote Josep Pujol, chief of search at Brave. "The web is changing, and our incredible growth shows that there is demand for a new player that puts users first."

    Continue reading
  • Meta mostly fails in appeal against order from UK watchdog to sell Giphy
    Might have been a good idea to mention that Snap was sniffing around GIF biz, too, judges note, though

    Judges in the UK have dismissed the majority of an appeal made by Facebook parent Meta to overturn a watchdog's decision to order the social media giant to sell Giphy for antitrust reasons.

    Facebook acquired GIF-sharing biz Giphy in May 2020. But Blighty's Competition Markets Authority (CMA) wasn't happy with the $400 million deal, arguing it gave Mark Zuckerberg's empire way too much control over the distribution of a lot of GIFs. After the CMA launched an official probe investigating the acquisition last June, it ordered Meta to sell Giphy to prevent Facebook from potentially monopolizing access to the animated images. 

    Meta appealed the decision to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), arguing six grounds. All but one of them – known as Ground 4 – were dismissed by the tribunal's judges this week. And even then only one part of Ground 4 was upheld: the second element.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022