Digital Rights Watch have cautiously welcomed proposed changes to the Assistance and Access Bill 2018 following reports that a compromise position has been achieved between the Labor Opposition and the Government.

“This is an important step forward for the democratic process, with some extremely dangerous elements of the Bill addressed through this compromise. But the fundamental fact remains that the powers being sought by law enforcement are ill-informed, badly drafted and a gross overreach,” said Digital Rights Watch’s Lizzie O’Shea.

Changes to the legislation will include an ongoing committee process into 2019, a limit on the range of offences to which the new powers will apply to serious offences only, a definition of the term ‘systemic weakness’ and greater oversight of the Technical Capability Notice powers in the Bill.

“Make no mistake – this Bill is still deeply flawed, and has the likely impact of weakening Australia’s overall cybersecurity, lowering confidence in e-commerce, reducing standards of safety for data storage and reducing civil right protections. In its very design, it is antithetical to human rights and core democratic principles. Lawmakers are on notice that they will be responsible for the consequences of introducing weaknesses into our digital infrastructure – including adverse consequences borne by everyday people who rely on encryption to go about their daily lives in a digital society.”

“We are disappointed that, after a brief moment of standing up for the digital rights of everyday Australians, the Labor Opposition has chosen the route of bipartisanship on national security issues, as always. This was an opportunity to push back against a clear scaremongering campaign from a desperate and weak government – instead it is a compromise that will have long-lasting effects on the digital infrastructure of Australia as a whole,” said Ms O’Shea.

“But at the very least, the vocal and valid concerns of digital rights advocates, cybersecurity experts, telecommunication providers and tech industry representatives have been heard, through a democratic parliamentary committee, and we welcome changes proposed by Labor to provide better oversight and limits to these new powers.”

“We look forward to continuing to work through the Parliamentary systems at our disposal, to educate those in power on the true ramifications of these badly drafted and illogical assaults on our everyday freedoms,” she concluded.