Facebook, Google to Fight Encryption Bill Amid Claims Laws Threaten Online Security

Google and Facebook will face off against new national laws forcing technology giants to hand over personal information to help national security agencies target terrorists and paedophiles.

The technology giants have joined with civil and digital rights groups in the Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet, fighting against the federal government’s encryption legislation.

The bill gives police powers to conduct surveillance on electronic devices and compel technology companies to help decrypt private communications.

Alliance spokeswoman Lizzie O’Shea said the companies were united against the government’s bill.

“As a group, we are so concerned by the bill that we feel it is our collective civic duty to use our voices to make sure that the public is aware of the alarming legislation the federal government is attempting to rush through parliament with its assistance and access bill,” Ms O’Shea said.

Members of the alliance include Amnesty International Australia, Human Rights Law Centre, Australian Industry Group, Digital Rights Watch and Internet Australia, along with Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

The federal government claimed the tech businesses supported the legislation, but the alliance has denied the claims.

Rights groups and industry have opposed the encryption bill since an exposure draft was released in September.

The bill will be reviewed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

However, there are concerns about the process.

Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton has criticised the government’s level of consultation with the sector, but said he did not know the level of engagement with communication’s minister and companies.

“I know that the consultation with Communications Alliance was perfunctory,” Mr Stanton said.

“We had one briefing.”

He criticised the government rushing the consultation process, following concerns the bill could be quickly rushed into law with “very minor amendments.”

“Instead of trying to ram this legislation through the committee process and the parliament, the government needs to sit down with stakeholders, engage on the details and collectively come up with workable, reasonable proposals that the meet the objective of helping enforcement agencies be more effective the digital age,” Mr Stanton said.

He also claimed the bill was “too broad” and put “too much power in the hands of bureaucrats”.

However, the Federal Government said the laws are necessary to protect Australians online.

Former cybersecurity minister Angus Taylor said in September that more than 90 per cent of data that was intercepted by the Australian Federal Police used some form of encryption, claiming it “impacted around 200 serious criminal and terrorism-related investigations” in the past year.

“We must ensure our laws reflect the rapid take-up of secure online communications by those who seek to do us harm,” Mr Taylor said.

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