A broad range of industry and legal experts are sounding alarm bells over proposed federal laws forcing tech giants to hand over encrypted information to security agencies.
The so-called Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet is accusing the government of rushing the legislation, claiming it was introduced to the lower house last month without adequate industry consultation.
“We should all be worried because this legislation doesn’t only target criminals, it puts every Australian at risk,” its spokeswoman Lizzie O’Shea said on Wednesday.
The group includes organisations such as Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Human Rights Law Centre, Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, Digital Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
They have united against the proposed laws believing the government was reluctant to listen to cyber security specialists, technology experts and leaders from civil society organisations.
“This bill stands to have a huge impact on millions of Australians, so it is crucial that lawmakers reject this proposal in its present form before we sleepwalk into a digital dystopia,” Ms O’Shea said.
Messaging applications such as WhatsApp are considered encrypted as messages are encoded so only authorised parties can see them.
Under the legislation, Australian and overseas companies will be both compensated by the government and afforded immunity from legal action for providing encrypted data.
Law enforcement agencies would also have the ability to remotely collect evidence from electronic devices under warrant.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten says Labor will ensure the “detail is right”.
“We’ve always got to make sure we’re maintaining our security systems, but walk before you run,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“We’re not going to compromise a good outcome by rushing the detail.”
As he introduced the draft laws to parliament last month, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the changes would help law enforcement access hidden communications among both terrorist organisations and criminal groups.
About 90 per cent of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) cases involved encrypted information, he added.
Penalties of up to 10 years’ jail could be faced for failing to hand over information when a warrant is in place and the data is linked to a serious crime.