Most people don’t like the thought of their private messages being reviewed.
But the Federal Government believes that there is a desperate need for them to be able to do so.
Gone are the days of landline phone calls and email being the primary forms of communication. Today, SMS, Facebook messenger and other forms of instant messaging represent a huge portion of our day to day communications.
The encryption technology in these messaging apps can make it difficult for police and security agencies to access them. And they are deeply concerned.
New legislation will be unveiled today, permitting the monitoring of phone and internet activity of the Australian public.
Agencies such as ASIO or the Australian Federal Police will soon be able to request assistance from telecommunication and tech companies in furthering their investigations.
Should you be worried that you’re being watched?
Despite your possible anger at this announcement, I would honestly say to you that you shouldn’t be surprised this is happening.
Actually, you should be more surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.
Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor told ABC:
‘In the last 12 months, 200 cases have arisen where our investigations for serious crimes have been impacted by our inability to access that data under the existing legislation,’
‘So that means the risk here is that criminals, terrorists, paedophiles and drug smugglers are getting away with their crimes without us being able to hold them to account.’
Terrorists, drug smugglers and paedophiles. The classic trinity for governments to trot out when they want to infringe on everyone’s rights. No one’s likely to argue in defence of any of them, so arguing in opposition to these laws becomes nearly impossible — though the government’s justifications come with little detail on how access to our Facebook messenger logs will help stop terror. Or, indeed, why an organised ring of drug smugglers, paedophiles or terrorists would ever be so foolish as to use Facebook messenger to plot their crimes…
You should be concerned with this — where does the monitoring stop?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be familiar with the Edward Snowden saga that started back in 2013 (if not, pick up the Hollywood version of Snowden or documentary Citizenfour and get ready to fall into a frenzy of covering up your laptop cameras and microphones).
The shocking news revealed to the public just how deep the National Security Agency (NSA) could see into our lives without our awareness.
Ever since then, the general public has paid a lot more attention to the information they publish online, the information they search for — and more terrifyingly, how they could be exploited if such government power were used irresponsibly.
Nanny state controlling our phones
So, I’d be surprised if you didn’t ask, is this latest legislation just a clever tactic for agencies to gain control of our phones?
Well, the Government says no, and released the following statement.
‘We believe encryption is absolutely crucial to protecting Australians. So the legalisation explicitly excludes the potential for law enforcement to ask industry to create a weakness in their encryption systems.’
And they won’t be able to access everything — systems such as Apple’s iMessage have an encryption key which is different for every user.
Whereas Apple’s iCloud feature holds only a single encryption key, one the Government could request access to.
But we are reassured such exercises would only be conducted in dire circumstances.
‘Those crimes in the case of a computer access warrant must be serious. It’s not any crime, it’s got to be a serious crime. So it’s three years’ imprisonment or higher.’
The problem is, such a reform could be like opening up a can of worms. Are we going to see restraints as tight as Chinas? Should we take ourselves offline to protect ourselves?
I’m more concerned with the following question.
How do we regain control of our privacy?
Alice de Bruin