Home Affairs to ‘clarify’ encryption

James Riley
Editorial Director

Following months of industry backlash, the Department of Home Affairs has acknowledged the perception of Australia’s anti-encryption laws has had “material impact” on the Australian market and the ability for Australian companies to compete globally.

“Consumers, international companies and investors are concerned domestically produced or located products and services have been undermined by the legislation, and that the industry assistance framework increases the costs of doing business in Australia,” the Department said in its submission for the review of the legislation.

To address the concerns, the Department said it will work across government, with industry partners, local and international industry, and the public to “broadly clarify and reiterate the intent and operation of the law.”

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“The Department continues to meet with impacted stakeholders including members of the technology and communications industry to work through their concerns,” the submission said.

“The Department expects that the formal administrative guidance that has been developed will also help to address misconceptions regarding the legislation by providing detailed analysis of the practical operation of key measures and reinforcing the consultative and collaborative nature of the industry assistance framework.”

The Department used the submission to clarify some concerns that have been previously raised by industry about the legislation, such as assistance requests.

For many in the industry, it is understood that assistance requests can be served to individual employees unbeknownst to the provider, nor would that employee be able to discuss the assistance requests within their organisation.

However, the Department said within the framework of the encryption law, agencies would seek assistance from an organisation, company or corporate entity and not from an individual in their capacity as employee.

“This concern is unfounded in the legislation and has been clarified in the administrative guidance,” the Department of Home Affairs said, noting it is considering other ways to address this issue.

Australian products and services are secure under the law, according to the home affairs department. It pointed out the industry assistance framework within the encryption law does not “undermine the security of devices or networks; allow for the construction of decryption capabilities or so-called ‘backdoors’; or require companies to jeopardise information security for innocent users.”

The Department reassured the Act is “supported by strong safeguards and oversight measures that protect business interests and the privacy of Australians, maintains the security of the digital ecosystem and ensure the powers are exercised responsibly.”

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