Australia Passes Bill Allowing Government to Bypass Messaging Encryption

The new laws will allow certain Australian state and federal governmental and law enforcement agencies to request access to a suspected criminal's encrypted communications.

"We're prepared to let it go forward on that basis - knowing there's more work to be done", Mr Shorten told reporters on Thursday night.

The Access and Assistance Bill gives law enforcement the ability to force technology companies operating in Australia-including Facebook-owned WhatsApp, smartphone makers like Apple, and website owners-to provide access to encrypted messages, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The government's Senate leader, Mathias Cormann, said the government had indeed agreed to revisit the issue in the new year.

Despite the Opposition Labor party initially stating it would only accept the "unsatisfactory" bill with strict limitations, it has since dropped these demands on the proviso that the government reconsider its proposed amendments when the government next sits in early 2019.

When the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked Apple in 2015 to unlock the phone of one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attack, Apple declined, citing the threat of such a back door.

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Australia is the first of the Five Eyes nations, an intelligence alliance among Australia, the U.S, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, to pass this sort of bill, which is set to become law by the end of this year. "This is not about politics, this is about Australia's national security", Morrison said, according to Australian news site news.com.au.

Worldwide privacy groups and tech companies such as Mozilla, Cisco, and Apple have criticised the laws as having the ability to make the entire internet less secure due to the universal nature of the encryption services being used.

The Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI), whose members include Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon and Twitter, said in a statement that the Australian legislation was "out of step" with other countries that had strong national security concerns. "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".

Brushing off the warnings from tech giants that the laws would undermine internet security, he said they would be similar to traditional telecommunications intercepts, just updated to take in modern technologies.

As reported by Fortune, the bill was condemned by security experts who claimed the "backdoors" would weaken security in the nation by creating "a target for other countries' spy agencies and corporate spies who might want to see what people are discussing". If secure servers and end-to-end encryption are on your email wish list, we have you covered.

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