Assistance and Access Bill 2018 (AA Bill)
Bad policy developed by people without tech expertise that damages our international credibility & Australia’s tech industry. It should be repealed.
Justification for it?
to facilitate access to certain communications and data for the purposes of disrupting and investigating criminal activity and threats to national security, including organised crime and terrorism. [source]
Who voted FOR it?
Who voted AGAINST it?
The Australian government has passed the controversial Assistance and Access Bill 2018 (AA Bill) on the final sitting day of the year, and without any of the amendments originally proposed by the Labor party. Josh Jessop-Smith, co-founder of blockchain startup Loki, said for startups like his that are built on encryption, the passing of the bill would “100% undermine the entire project we have here”.
Quoting Techly, the #aabill gives security agencies the ability to access the encrypted messages of suspected criminals. Notice how it says suspects, not actual criminals.
The bill even gives government agencies the power to request that tech companies create new ways for them to access messages. That means secret backdoors accessible by them – and potential hackers.
Not only does the bill have dire ramifications at the individual level, but it also threatens to harm the export of Aussie technology.
After creating these secret access points for government agencies, Aussie hardware and software will be perceived as untrustworthy throughout the world.
Under the new bill, Technical Capability Notices (TCNs) can be handed out to companies in order to make them comply with the legislation.
The issue is simple: encryption is supposed to keep messages secret between the sender and the receiver. If police and intelligence agencies are given access to encrypted messages, it kind of defeats the purpose.
Perhaps the most worrying – and underrepresented – portion of the bill is that it allows foreign countries the same access.
A foreign country can request the Attorney-General “to arrange for access to data”, even if the incident relates to an investigation involving the law of a foreign country.
The only restriction on the access available by agencies from foreign countries is that the individual must be suspected of a crime that is “punishable by a maximum penalty of imprisonment of three years or more” – a huge range of offences.
It’s not just technology companies that aren’t happy about the legislation. Human rights groups, lawyers and anyone with a lick of sense sees this as a gross misappropriation of governmental power.
“We now have a situation where unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications are now law, even though Parliament knows serious problems exist,” Law Council of Australia President Morry Bailes said in a press release.
Another issue with the bill is that by complying, Australian technology companies could in turn be in breach of European privacy laws, as well of their own policies that require them to notify customers of security breaches.
Australian tech leaders are also concerned that the legislation was rushed through during the final days of Parliament in 2018.
In a series of tweets, Mike Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder of Atlassian, tweeted: “Rushing such complex legislation in days is reckless.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten admitted as much, saying that the ramped up laws would be reconsidered and adjusted when Parliament returns to session in February.
That means tech companies – and consumers – will be left in the lurch over the Christmas period, where a large portion of the $22.1 billion that is projected to be spent will be on tech products.
What the Experts have said
The Australian government has opened up submissions again for the very flawed and dangerous #AABill which can realistically destroy the AU tech industry. I urge you to give your views via https://t.co/SjvG3Ie3iL #startupaus
— Miles Burke (@milesb) January 30, 2019
The Australian government has pledged to review the #aabill, which should never have passed.
Submissions are open for the second time. There are only ten.https://t.co/WaCpDdhdQW
— attacus (@attacus_au) January 27, 2019
Atlassian, @canva, @Startupaus, @airtreevc and others join to fight government’s anti-encryption laws, which @scottfarkas says are a chokehold on the Australian technology industryhttps://t.co/QeIVimcH7U #startupaus #aabill pic.twitter.com/7AxxrC2jV8
— David Swan (@swan_legend) February 11, 2019
Hello #startupaus 👋 It’s 2019 and we must ensure amendments are made to the crazy laws passed in haste before Christmas: Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 (#AABill).
Make your own submission or sign ours! https://t.co/D6yV5g2u5O
— Sarah Moran 👗 (@SarahMoran) February 11, 2019
The Australian government has a complete disregard for technology and the damage it can do. This shows in everything they do — NBN, Robodebt, Metadata retention, and DTCA (to name a few)
— Eliza Sorensen (@Zemmiph0bia) February 18, 2019
The Government are lining up for another go at #aabill next week, most likely to bring forth the ALP amendments (or some form thereof) that were dumped last year. This legislation is already causing damage. Where to next folks? Can we fix it? #encryption #auspol #digitalrights
— Dr Penny Kyburz for the Senate (ACT) (@DrKyburz) February 7, 2019
— Asher Wolf (@Asher_Wolf) March 6, 2019