Today, an international civil liberties and technology coalition urged the Australian Parliament to amend its new encryption law to minimize the threats that the law poses to cybersecurity, privacy, and freedom of expression.

The international coalition of 36 civil society organizations, technology companies and trade associations filed comments with the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), which is conducting a review of the new Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 that Parliament enacted on December 6, 2018.

The Assistance and Access Act 2018 provides the Australian government with expansive powers that pose serious risks to the cybersecurity and fundamental human rights of people around the world.

In particular, the international civil liberties and technology coalition comments filed today call for amendments that would

  • Narrow the technical assistance notice and technical capability notice authorities in order to limit the government’s powers and minimize the threats posed to cybersecurity;
  • Provide for more robust judicial and public oversight of the government’s use of these new tools, including requiring prior judicial approval and annual reporting;
  • Loosen the non-disclosure requirements of the law, including protecting the rights of security researchers and software engineers whose work may otherwise be chilled; and
  • Limit the definition of “designated communications providers” who are subject to the law.

“These laws are deeply flawed, and have the likely impact of weakening Australia’s overall cyber security, lowering confidence in e-commerce, reducing standards of safety for data storage and reducing civil right protections. In their very design, they are antithetical to human rights and core democratic principles, said Tim Singleton Norton, Chair of Digital Rights Watch.

“We urge the Australian Parliament to take seriously this opportunity to amend the dangerous encryption law that it rushed through in December. The broad surveillance tools created by the Assistance and Access Act 2018 should be reined in, to avoid the risk that they could be used to authorize government demands that providers weaken the security features of their products. Our international civil liberties and technology coalition calls on Parliament to act now to protect the digital security and human rights of Australians and other technology users around the globe,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, Director of Surveillance & Cybersecurity Policy, New America’s Open Technology Institute.

The comments submitted today will be available after the PJCIS has confirmed receipt and authorized publication, per the Committee’s procedures for publication of submissions.

The international civil liberties and technology coalition joining the comments is comprised of:

Civil Society Organizations:

  • Access Now
  • Blueprint for Free Speech
  • Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Constitutional Alliance
  • CryptoAUSTRALIA
  • Defending Rights & Dissent
  • Digital Rights Watch
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Engine
  • Enjambre Digital
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Government Accountability Project
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
  • Linux Australia Inc.
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Open Rights Group
  • Privacy International
  • Restore The Fourth, Inc.
  • Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic
  • TechFreedom
  • X-Lab
  • World Privacy Forum

Technology Companies and Trade Associations:

  • ACT | The App Association
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Cloudflare
  • Computer & Communications Industry Association
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Internet Association
  • Microsoft
  • Reform Government Surveillance (RGS is a coalition of technology companies)
  • Startpage.com
  • Tenable
  • Twitter