Australian ponders requiring multiple IDs to sign up for social media, plus more crypto-busting backdoors

Yes, this could mean Zuck gets your passport and credit card. We’re sure he’ll take care of them properly …


An Australian Parliamentary Committee has recommended that locals be compelled to hand over identification documents to sign up for and use social media.

The Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs’ Inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence delivered its final report last week – on April 1st, in fact.

The report aims to inform government responses to family, domestic, and sexual violence, and was commissioned after previous plans did not achieve their stated aim of reducing such incidents.

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The Committee was given wide terms of reference, among them to inquire into “All forms of violence against women, including, but not limited to, coercive control and technology-facilitated abuse.”

Several recommendations in the report suggest research on, and measures to ameliorate, technology-facilitated abuse. Fast removal of abusive material is among those recommendations.

Recommendation 30 then suggests the following three measures:

  • In order to open or maintain an existing social media account, customers should be required by law to identify themselves to a platform using 100 points of identification, in the same way as a person must provide identification for a mobile phone account, or to buy a mobile SIM card.”
  • Social media platforms must provide those identifying details when requested by the eSafety Commissioner, law enforcement or as directed by a court.
  • The Government should consider regulating to enable law enforcement agencies to access a platform’s end-to-end encrypted data, by warrant, in matters involving a threat to the physical or mental wellbeing of an individual or in cases of national security.

The first item’s reference to “100 points of identification” describes a common requirement for Australians to produce multiple forms of ID to open a bank account, register for government services and to start a new mobile service. While requirements for the scheme vary across Australia’s jurisdictions, all require at least one primary document – usually a passport, birth certificate or driver’s licence – plus secondary documents such as a national healthcare card, credit card, or taxation assessment notice.

The intention is that requiring ID will make it easier to prevent anonymous trolls, or track those who abuse others online. Which is a fine aim.

But The Register is far from alone in pointing out that volunteering your passport and credit card to a social media company may not be the best idea given, as The Register chronicled today, Facebook leaked personal data from over 500 million users in 2019. And who could forget that LinkedIn lost a lazy 117m passwords in 2016, or that HaveIBeenPwned rates Myspace as the source of the eighth-largest trove of stolen data it has found?

The proposals that social media surrender personal documents on demand request is also problematic, and the call for a backdoor to break end-to-end encryption is doubly so.

The recommendations are just that and it may be months or years before they are considered, never mind acted upon. Indeed, Australia’s recently demoted attorney-general Christian Porter did not meet with his department about a report on sexual harassment in the workplace for more than a year after its publication. ®


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