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Latest Australian Anti-Encryption Laws Target Tech Whistleblowers

Australia’s latest anti-encryption laws are ruffling feathers among the tech community down under, suggesting they could damage the country’s hi-tech reputation.

On 8 December, Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Assistance and Access Bill 2018 (AA Bill) passed speedily through the Australian parliament.

The new law targets anonymity, allowing the government to force a technical assistance notice (TAN) or technical capability notice on tech firms which divulge certain information to their users.

Under amendment 317ZF, if those contacted by security services disclose this information, they could face 5 to 10 years in prison. Blockchain firms who trade exclusively in privacy will be hardest hit by the new security measures. One business, Loki, is already seeking appeal stating:

“The bill has been poorly covered by the media and the final round of amendments that went into the bill significantly reduced its practical uses for law enforcement agencies. However, it does contain the basis of a system which could be extended in future… The scariest thing about this bill is the penalties given to providers who leak information about the investigation or notice, or refuse to comply with the notice.”

The US implemented similar anti-encryption legislation called “warrant canary” under which the FBI sends out numerous Security Letters every year to internet providers, forums or other websites demanding they reveal the identity of users they suspect of federal crimes.

The Australian legislation according to the government is essentially aimed at alleviating the worldwide threat to police and national security agencies with much of modern communication comprising encrypted messaging platforms that are difficult to intercept and decode.

Despite the success of many cryptocurrency and blockchain startups in Australia, such as the likes of Power ledger and Coinspot, there is a problem with anonymity. Australia has attempted to challenge illegal activity online by banning cash transactions over AUD 10,000 and any greater transactions require exchanges to verify any customer identities which cause suspicion. Exchange giant Coinbase now requires users to upload a valid driver’s license in order to buy and sell crypto.

 

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