Strong encryption serves Australia’s national interests and creates more robust systems

Digital rights groups are urging the Australian government to protect and strengthen encryption in a detailed briefing submitted to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement inquiry.

Access Now and Digital Rights Watch have highlighted the important role that encryption plays in creating a modern, competitive economy, preventing crime, and enabling law enforcement to ensure that we have a safe, prosperous, and modern society.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stated that his government wants to introduce a method for intercepting and reading encrypted messages, under the pretence of keeping the public safe from terrorism,” said Lizzie O’Shea from Digital Rights Watch. “We submitted a detailed memo to Parliament explaining just how important encryption is to our economy and our society.”

Encryption plays a major role across many important areas of Australian life. It’s critical to protect national security interests and the economy, and helps to safeguard society, individuals, service providers, and the private sector against cybercrime, data breaches, and other risks,” said Nathan White, Senior Legislative Manager for Access Now.

Encryption is a foundational tool for the proper functioning of the digital society and economy, and is used in a wide range of settings, including banking, public service delivery, and communications systems. It is important that our elected officials understand the gravity of this before they make any legislative changes in this area,” said Tim Norton, Chair of Digital Rights Watch.

As a society, we accept that people can meet and discuss things in private, that people can draw the curtains on their bedroom windows so the government can’t see in. There are limits on government’s powers, and encryption is an integral part of this right to privacy in digital society. The government has to find ways to do its job without crossing these limits,” added Ms O’Shea.

The protection that is offered through encryption is important for everyone. Policies that undermine strong encryption create more problems than they solve, and it is critical that legislators and decision makers consider the consequences before it is too late,” she concluded.

The briefing paper, “The Role of Encryption in Australia,” can be viewed here: https://www.accessnow.org/Crypto-Australia-Memo

Key principles outlined in the briefing:

  • Encryption is essential to Australia’s modern digital society, economy, and cyber security, and it is only effective if it is strong and robust.
  • Strong encryption serves Australia’s national interests by protecting governments, communities, and the economy from criminal, terrorist, and state-sponsored attacks.
  • Encryption will only become more important for protecting Australian interests as technology advances in the coming decades.
  • The government is proposing to weaken encryption in the name of fighting terrorism, however this policy would create more security risks than it addresses.
  • There are other policy options for dealing with terrorist use of digital technology that are more urgent and effective than weakening encryption.