Digital Rights experts welcome Labor standing up to protect encryption

Digital Rights Watch has welcomed reports that the Federal Labor Opposition intends to oppose the passage of the Assistance and Access Bill 2018 in its current form before Christmas.

Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus today wrote to the Government announcing his intention to break with a long held tradition of bipartisan commitment through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), and called for further analysis of the impacts of the Bill.

“This Bill has been flawed from the outset, and overwhelming evidence has been presented to the committee that outlines the deep concerns from human rights experts, technology companies, telecommunication providers and members of the public,” said Digital Rights Watch’s Lizzie O’Shea.

“Experts in cryptography, cybersecurity and human rights all agree that this poses a very serious threat to our digital infrastructure. We don’t want to see yet another example of law enforcement and intelligence agencies putting their interests above those that they are suppose to serve,” she concluded.

“We’ve seen an atrocious level of political interference in this inquiry, with comments conflating terrorism with encryption in the media from the Home Affairs Minister, the Prime Minister and even from the Chair of the Committee Andrew Hastie himself. This is an outrageous overreach in what has traditionally been a very respected and measured committee process.”

“Encryption is not a barrier to a safe society – quite the opposite – it is a form of protection against criminal acts, including state-sponsored hacking. Encryption plays a role in protecting our digital infrastructure, such as the banking system, the electricity grid and mass transit systems. It is an important line of defence against bad actors, and we weaken it at our peril.”

“It is very welcoming to see the Federal Opposition do its job – to stand up to the government of the day and ensure that proper scrutiny and analysis of legislation is applied. Whilst we still hold deep concerns on the impacts of this Bill as a whole, this additional time will allow for proper consultation and engagement with the people it will most affect – Australian citizens,” said Ms O’Shea.

Ms O’Shea this morning provided evidence to the PJCIS on the human rights impacts of the Bill.