People could face up to five years’ in jail if they do not give their laptop password or mobile phone PIN to the authorities under proposed changes to the law.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton introduced the new laws to the Parliament, saying they are needed to help police and spies catch criminals who are hiding behind encryption technology.
But civil libertarians say the changes go too far.
‘The bill is a draconian measure to grant law enforcement authorities unacceptable surveillance powers that invade Australians’ civil rights,’ said Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm in an emailed statement to Daily Mail Australia.
‘It appears that people who are not even suspected of committing a crime can face a fine of up to $50,000 and up to five years’ imprisonment for declining to provide a password to their smartphone, computer or other electronic devices.’
The penalty unit fine is actually more than $50,000 asthe value of a penalty unit has recently been increased to $210.
Anybody who refuses to help the authorities crack a computer system when ordered will face up to five years jail.
If the crime being investigated is terrorism, the penalty for non-compliance is increased to 10 years’ jail or $126,000.
If Parliament passes the bill, tech companies will have to help authorities crack the encryption on users devices when told to help – or face up to $10 million in fines.
If anybody at the company tells anybody that they have been told to do it, they will face up to five years’ in jail.
This will give authorities access to your protected online information in the event of an investigation.
Under the legislation, foreign countries can also ask Australia’s Attorney General for police to access data in your computer to help them investigate law-breaking overseas.
For the bill to become law, it has to pass through three readings in the federal Parliament. It is now on its second reading.
More than 14,000 submissions of concern about the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 have been received.
Submissions are open until October 19 so there is still time for you to have your say.
As the Australian Government grapples with new technology challenging law enforcement and national security, lawmakers have passed increasingly tough legislation affecting individual rights over the past five years.
Some in the community have become concerned about the risk of the authorities having too much power.
‘This is another extension of powers which goes well beyond what is reasonable and necessary in a democracy,’ said NSW Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Lesley Lynch.
There is also reportedly a potential conflict between Australia’s legislation and tough new data privacy laws passed in Europe.
A 46-year-old British software developer had his password-protected laptop and phone seized by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers earlier this year as he travelled through Sydney Airport.
The ABF would not say whether any files had been copied, but did inspect his devices.
Nathan Hague told The Guardian he believed the ABF had cracked his laptop password and inspected his files.
He said this potentially compromises his business, putting it in breach of Europe’s tough new GDPR data privacy laws and he would have to give privacy breach notifications to his clients.