AWS hits out at encryption bill

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James Riley

Global cloud service giant Amazon Web Services has broken cover on the industry’s collective fight against the federal government’s encryption bill, arguing strongly against the proposed laws as simply a bad idea for everyone.

Singapore-based AWS regional managing director for public sector Peter Moore says that despite substantial consultation with government, both through the Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI) collective and directly through its own government relations outreach, the company felt strongly the bill in its current form required a front foot response.

AWS had provided its public submission on the proposed Assistance and Access Bill 2018 through the local arm of DIGI, the lobby group whose members include Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo.

And earlier this week the group joined an unusual alliance of human rights groups, digital rights organisations and global business giants ranging from Amnesty International to the Human Rights Law Centre, Telstra and Optus – in addition to the DIGI clout – to oppose the troubling legislation.

Mr Moore says the foreshortened time available for public feedback once the bill had been published made for the creation of a striking alliance of different voices.

“How troubling is it? Well, the problem is that if the bill was narrower in scope and if it didn’t have the grey areas that we think are bad for all online companies, then it would be a different situation,” Mr Moore told

“But in this case we felt pretty strongly that this was not a good bill and we felt that we didn’t want to be seen as a lone voice on this,” he said.

“Obviously AWS is a big organisation and takes up a lot of the internet and all of those things, but we felt our views [on the proposed legislation] were consistent with the views of other companies – and not just global internet companies but local companies as well.”

Mr Moore is not critical of the government consultation – either directly with AWS or with the DIGI lobby – but does suggest the Australian government is taking the issue further than other countries, and that required a swift and powerful response.

“I just feel that in the time given for feedback that we made our best effort and we will see what comes from the bill,” he said.

“It is concerning for us, [and] I wouldn’t suggest that this is something many other countries have done.

“Many countries are going through a quite challenging period right now trying to work out how you protect the data, and at the same time not create vulnerabilities that bad actors can take advantage of. That’s really where we were coming from.”

Mr Moore said Australia had developed strong momentum in its cloud adoption – particularly at the government level – but said the changes at the ministerial level were not helpful.

“In many way the changes at the government level do slow things down, just in terms of business momentum. Having different ministries responsible for different functions, and then moving from Angus Taylor to Peter Dutton – everyone has a different way of doing things,” he said.

“We are doing our best to provide the capabilities that [Amazon has] so that [the government] can continue the very positive momentum we are seeing in Australia without the changes at the political level having a negative impact on that progress.

“I don’t think anyone was expecting what happened to happen. And I don’t think anyone knew what changes were going to be made at the ministry level. But you just take it on, and this is something that we do all the time with our focus on the public sector.”

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