International Civil Liberties and Technology Coalition Urges Australian Parliament To Amend Its Dangerous Encryption Law

Press Release
Feb. 21, 2019

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. Prior to enactment of the law, New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) submitted three rounds of coalition comments on behalf of an international coalition of civil society organizations, technology companies, and trade associations. The final set, filed in November, outlined amendments that would have ameliorated some of the coalition’s most significant concerns. The comments filed today note that the amendments Parliament adopted when it passed the law in December provided some improvements, but the comments then explain how the coalition’s “most fundamental concerns with the legislation still remain unaddressed.”

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.

The following quote can be attributed to Sharon Bradford Franklin, Director of Surveillance & Cybersecurity Policy, New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“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.”

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. Update 2/25: The comments are now available here.

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

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


See the September 9, 2018 coalition comments from 31 civil society organizations, technology companies, and trade associations, that OTI submitted on the original Exposure Draft of the bill here.

See the October 11, 2018 coalition comments from 38 civil society organizations, technology companies, and trade associations, that OTI submitted to the PJCIS inquiry here.

See the November 21, 2018 supplemental coalition comments from 29 civil society organizations, technology companies, and trade associations, that OTI submitted to the PJCIS inquiry here.