A new law proposed by the Australian government could force Facebook and Google to give police access to their messages. The new ruling could open the floodgates for law enforcement agencies around the globe who have been seeking access to encrypted messages for the “greater good”.
Before his departure, FBI Director James Comey was lobbying Congress to make clear it also applies to the digital equivalent.
Last year, the FBI tried to force Apple into rewriting their own coding so they could infiltrate the iPhone device of the San Bernadino terrorist. Apple put up a good fight to the FBI’s requests and the agency only backed down when it figured out a way of cracking the code itself.
The British government faced similar data protection obstacles in the past when trying to look at the Facebook messages of missing people or persons of interest. The law was recently changed in this regard.
The Australian government’s new cybersecurity law will force global tech firms such as Google and Facebook to give law enforcement agencies access to encrypted messages sent by suspected criminals and extremists.
According to The Guardian, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the law would be modelled on Britain’s Investigatory Powers Act, passed in November. The law gives UK intelligence agencies some of the most extensive surveillance powers in the west.
Under Australia’s new law, internet companies will have the same obligations as telecommunication companies to assist the police. Experts have said the new law could be rolled out in other territories worldwide, including the United States.
U.S. Law Enforcement Seeks Similar Access to Private Data
The United States has been pushing forward with data protection laws and privacy issues of its own over the past few months.
The FBI has recently called for a rewrite of US surveillance laws that would mean the justice department could access American citizen’s web browsing history, emails and location detail without a warrant or approval from a judge.
“The FBI contends that such data is covered implicitly under current statute, which was written years ago and only explicitly covers data normally associated with telephone records. Before his departure, FBI Director James Comey was lobbying Congress to make clear it also applies to the digital equivalent,” The Guardian writes.
However, Facebook, Google and Yahoo have formed an alliance to fight the FBI’s new proposal. They have sent a letter warning Congress that they will oppose any plans to rewrite the law in the FBI’s favor.
Data protection is proving a headache for law and policymakers around the world. Not only do citizens have a right to their privacy, but the same citizens deserve a right to live in a safe society. Law enforcement agencies argue that gaining access to social media, emails and cloud platforms of suspected criminals will help them fight terror and ensure safety, from Australia to America and beyond.