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Australia wants Five Eyes to squeeze tech firms on encryption

Australia wants Five Eyes to squeeze tech firms on encryption
From TechCrunch - June 25, 2017

The political rhetoric against strong encryption continues to crank up. Reuters reports today that Australia will be pushing for greater powers for countries to tackle the use of encrypted messaging services by terrorists and criminals at an upcoming meeting of ministers from the so-called Five Eyes intelligence network.

I will raise the need to address ongoing challenges posed by terrorists and criminals using encryption, Australian Attorney General Senator Brandis is quoted as saying, ahead of the meeting of the group next week.

These discussions will focus on the need to cooperate with service providers to ensure reasonable assistance is provided to law enforcement and security agencies.

The Five Eyes countries are: the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In the UK a legislative framework has already been put in place which is widely interpreted as having powers to compel companies to remove encryption and/or limit the use of end-to-end encryption to secure services (aka, the Investigatory Powers Act).

The final piece is a statutory instrument called a Technical Capability Notice (TCN) intended to be served on comms services providers to compel decrypted access, i.e. provided the authorities have a warrant and have passed certain proportionality tests intended to safeguard misuse of the power.

Prior to the UKs general election earlier this month, government ministers were reportedly intending to push the instrument through a vote in parliamentalthough the Conservatives went on to lose their majority in the election. Its not yet clear whether their plans will be delayed or face major opposition from opposition MPs.

But it is clear that the UKs legislative lead on decryption powers is having geopolitical ramifications. (The wider Europe Union is also currently considering how to respond to the rising use of strong encryption by digital servicesthough no legislative proposals have emerged as yet.)

Earlier this month Australias Brandis told Sky News hes a fan of the UKs IP Act, and said the country wants to encourage all Five Eyes nations to pursue a similar strategy of ramping up the legal obligations on tech companies and device makers toas he put itco-operate with authorities in decrypting communications.

He has also previously said Australia does not want to mandate backdoors in services. However in the same Sky News interview Brandis argues that pressuring companies to break their own encryption does not constitute a backdoor. Which is really a game of semantics.

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