Australia set to spy on WhatsApp messages with encryption law
PM Scott Morrison has said the legislation is needed to help foil terrorist attacks. Critics say it is flawed and could undermine security across the Internet, jeopardising activities from online voting to market trading and data storage.
The legislation thrusts Australia to the heart of a global tug of war between tech companies and governments over privacy and security. In 2016, the US Justice Department clashed with Apple when the company refused to unlock an iPhone connected to a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. The UK government, meanwhile, has been deeply critical of WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption after the messaging service was used by a terrorist shortly before he killed five people in London in March 2017.
The Australian government's cyber security adviser Alastair MacGibbon said on Wednesday that authorities had been able to intercept telephone communications lawfully for almost 40 years, and needed new powers to keep pace with modern technology.
Law enforcers have been “going blind or going deaf” because of encryption, he said. “What this law does is help codify a conversation between police and telecommunication companies, that has to be reasonable, has to be proportionate, and has to be technically feasible,” he added.