Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently announced the Federal Government’s new laws that will oblige both telcos and social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp to give Australian security agencies access to encrypted messages, to ‘ensure that the rule of law applies online as well as offline’, as stated by Turnbull.
Many people are asking whether the government really needs access to these encrypted communications, and more importantly, whether this could compromise our security.
Does the government really need access to encrypted communications?
In order for the proposed laws and interventions to be effective, we would need to assume that the calibre of criminals named in the Government’s announcement (terrorists, drug traffickers etc.) are actively using social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook messenger.
With the increasing sophistication of criminal organisations who are operating more like multinational corporations, it would be safe to say that it is unlikely that high value criminal targets would use common social media platforms to communicate. The majority of criminal organisations as reported by studies are more likely to utilise high-end encrypted communication devices and software applications to coordinate criminal activities.
Could the new encryption legislation compromise our security?
There is concern as to whether the Government is capable of providing adequate levels of protection from cyber attackers. The Government has proposed to compel technology companies such as Facebook to provide ‘backdoor access’ to encrypted messaging services which would introduce vulnerabilities into the platforms, leaving them and their users more exposed to ‘cyber attacks’.
The essential question here is whether the Australian Government’s new encryption legislation could potentially be gambling the privacy of millions of Australians to pursue a path that may not be effective in combating the intended targets, such as terrorists, drug traffickers and other criminal organisations.
How can we help?
Our criminal defence lawyers specialise in all aspects of encryption law and have both the knowledge and experience to provide you with expert legal advice. If you require assistance from a legal expert contact one of our criminal defence lawyers to arrange a consultation.