Apple Criticizes Proposed Anti-Encryption Legislation in Australia
The Australian government is considering a bill that would require tech companies like Apple to provide "critical assistance" to government agencies who are investigating crimes.
According to the Australian government, encryption is problematic because encrypted communications "are increasingly being used by terrorist groups and organized criminals to avoid detection and disruption."
In the letter, Apple calls the bill "dangerously ambiguous" and explains the importance of encryption in "protecting national security and citizens' lives" from criminal attackers who are finding more serious and sophisticated ways to infiltrate iOS devices.
In the face of these threats, this is no time to weaken encryption. There is profound risk of making criminals' jobs easier, not harder. Increasingly stronger -- not weaker -- encryption is the best way to protect against these threats.
Apple says that it "challenges the idea" that weaker encryption is necessary to aid law enforcement investigations as it has processed more than 26,000 requests for data to help solve crimes in Australia over the course of the last five years.
According to Apple, the language in the bill is broad and vague, with "ill-defined restrictions." As an example, Apple says the language in the bill would permit the government to order companies who make smart home speakers to "install persistent eavesdropping capabilities" or require device makers to create a tool to unlock devices.
Apple says additional work needs to be done on the bill to include a "firm mandate" that "prohibits the weakening of encryption or security protections," with the company going on to outline a wide range of specific concerns that it hopes the Australian parliament will address. The list of flaws Apple has found with the bill can be found in the full letter.
Apple has been fighting against anti-encryption legislation and attempts to weaken device encryption for years, and its most public battle was against the U.S. government in 2016 after Apple was ordered to help the FBI unlock the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2015 attacks in San Bernardino.
Apple opposed the order and claimed that it would set a "dangerous precedent" with serious implications for the future of smartphone encryption. Apple ultimately held its ground and the U.S. government backed off after finding an alternate way to access the device, but Apple has continually had to deal with further law enforcement efforts to combat encryption.
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