Could The Government’s New Bill Take Away Your Privacy?

Proposed new laws could make your phone vulnerable to hacking

What you need to know
  • New laws could allow law enforcement to access customers' data
  • Consumer rights advocates are concerned about customers' security and privacy

If you’ve got any nudes on your phone, it might be a good time to get rid of them. The government’s new Assistance and Access Bill could make your phone a lot more vulnerable to hacking, according to Australia’s telecommunications industry.

Under proposed changes being put forward by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, the government would have the power to compel telcos and manufacturers to make suspects’ phones and data accessible to law enforcement. The radical changes would require that spyware be installed on devices so that telcos and/or manufacturers are able to access customers’ data if ordered to do so by investigators. Currently, much of this data is protected by encryption software that could be undermined by the spyware.

The Bill follows last year’s stoush between Apple and the FBI when the former refused to unlock the phone of a mass shooter in Texas even when federal agents demanded it do so.

The proposed changes have raised serious concern amongst telcos, consumer rights advocates, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon that the new laws could compromise the privacy and security of law-abiding citizens if the spyware installed on their devices were to be abused by law enforcement or if it were to fall into the hands of criminals.

In a joint statement, Apple, DropBox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter said that “strong encryption helps protect the security and privacy of individuals and companies around the world” and that they are concerned about “proposals that would undermine encryption of devices and services by requiring so-called ‘exceptional access’ for law enforcement.”

The Department of Home Affairs claims that over 90% of data being lawfully intercepted by the Australian Federal Police uses some form of encryption. In introducing the Bill to Parliament last week, Peter Dutton argued that “criminal syndicates and terrorists are increasingly misusing and, indeed, exploiting [encryption] technologies.”

So unless you want ASIO scouring through your nudes, it might be a good time to delete them and only hold onto the hard copies.