A tech coalition of the concerned  

James Riley
Editorial Director

A broad coalition of more than 300 people working in or around the tech sector will gather in Sydney on Wednesday morning to put a voice to concerns about the impact of controversial encryption laws on the domestic technology industry.

The Safe Encryption Australia forum has been underpinned by the cooperation of 20 separate tech-related industry groups and professional associations, and co-ordinated by InnovationAus.com and StartupAUS.

The registered audience of attendees at Safe Encryption Australia is representatives of the broadest set of tech industry interests, without any one group dominating – from startups, to mid-tier tech and multinationals, to students, professional services and industry groups.

A substantial number of government representatives from both State and Federal governments will also be in the room. The forum will be live-streamed via Facebook.

Both InnovationAus.com and StartupAUS will be tweeting the link to the Livestream through the day, so please keep an eye out. If you want to take a next step and write to your local member of Parliament, you can find some resources in this Dropbox link.

Of all the challenges facing governments in the age of the internet, none is more difficult than the issue of how to deal with encryption. It is the ultimate double-edged sword, providing a foundation layer for modern commerce and the digital economy, while also given safe haven and comfort to bad actors in our global community.

For law enforcement and those intelligence agencies charged with keeping the nation safe, the challenges could not be more fundamental.

While the tech industry has been quite accepting of the needs of law enforcement, and for the ultimate end-goals of the so-called Assistance and Access Act, there has been tremendous concern about how broad the legislation is, and how ill-defined some of its terminology.

Australian software companies have already complained that the AA laws have already hurt them in offshore markets, that the Australian brand has already been damaged.

This week I spoke with Matt Shearing from Teddington Legal’s Brisbane offices. Mr Shearing a lawyer specialising in high-growth tech companies who has spent considerable time deconstructing the new legislation, and thinking through some workarounds.

In putting together Safe Encryption Australia, we have sought to get as many voices into the room as possible. So far, we have been unable to get a representative from government to participate at the forum, although we still have open invitations that we are following.

Obviously the government perspective, and especially that of law enforcement and the intelligence agencies, is crucial to any discussion about the Assistance and Access laws. For those interested, it is worth reading the Department of Home Affairs’ “Myths about the Assistance and Access Act” explainer.

In the meantime, the Safe Encryption Australia event is being hosted by the University of Technology, Sydney at Fishburners within the Sydney Startup Hub from 8.00am to 10.00am.

A very few tickets are still available for this free industry forum. Registrations will shut-off at noon Tuesday. If you have already registered and are now unable to attend, we ask that you unregister at the Eventbrite page to make space for someone else. This will be a full house.

In the meantime, confirmed speakers for Safe Encryption Australia are:

  • Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Scott Farquhar
  • Senatas chairman and founder Francis Galbally
  • NUIX co-founder and cyber investor Eddie Sheehy
  • Girl Geek Academy CEO Sarah Moran
  • Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy, Ed Husic
  • Deputy Vice-Chancellor UTS, Glenn Wightwick

For those outside of Sydney or who are unable to get to the event, you can watch Safe Encryption Australia via a Livestream that will broadcast on the InnovationAus.com Facebook page. You can find it here.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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