The “Assistance and Access” laws that were passed last year represent a huge attack on the right to privacy in Australia. This legislation will force technology providers to create functions that allow authorities access to encrypted communications, without notifying the users of these services.
The government rammed the bill through Parliament in four days before Christmas with the support of the Labor Party. This meant there was very little debate or consultation. The criticisms that were raised by tech and privacy experts were largely ignored.
The government argued that this bill was needed to assist law enforcement agencies to combat crimes and make society safer, but this is far from the case.
Technical experts are unanimous in warning that weakening encryption with “backdoor” functions is very dangerous. It would potentially put millions of people’s information at risk if malicious parties managed to get control of the tools.
Authorities around the world already have access to extensive mass surveillance and data collection systems. This has not stopped numerous terrorist attacks or mass shootings.
The real reasons governments want laws like this is twofold. Firstly, they are trying to be seen as ‘doing something’ in relation to terrorism, regardless of how ineffective the measures actually are.
Secondly, there is a general crack down on democratic rights as governments all over the world grapple with how to keep a population in check that is becoming disgruntled with the state of things.
While the targets of these laws today are ostensibly ‘terrorists’ and ‘criminals’, tomorrow they will no doubt be used against political activists and organisations that pose a threat to the rule of the major parties, and the system they represent.
While tech companies like Google and Apple also oppose these laws, we cannot rely on them to be allies in the fight for democratic rights. They have a terrible record of collaborating with all sorts of undemocratic regimes and using our data to increase their own profits.
Socialists campaign for the encryption laws, and other anti-democratic legislation, to be repealed. We stand for a democratic socialist society where the wealth created is used to cater for everyone’s needs. On that basis surveillance and repression would not be required.
By Triet Tran