“I will raise the need to discuss ongoing Threats posed by terrorists and criminals using encryption,” Australian Attorney-General Senator Brandis is said as saying, ahead of the meeting of the group next week.
“These negotiations will focus on the need to cooperate with service providers to assure reasonable assistance is provided to law enforcement and security agencies.”
The Five Eyes nations are the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In the UK a congressional framework has already been put in place which is widely interpreted as holding powers to compel companies to eliminate encryption and/or limit the use of end-to-end encryption to ensure services (aka, the Investigatory Powers Act).
The final section is a statutory instrument called a Technical Capability Notice (TCN) meant to be served on comms services providers to enforce decrypted access, i.e. provided the governments have a warrant and have transferred certain proportionality tests intended to safeguard misuse of the power.
Prior to the UK’s global election earlier this month, government representatives were reportedly intending to push the apparatus through a vote in parliament — although the Conservatives went on to lose their bulk in the election. It’s not yet clear whether their plans will be suspended or face major opposition from opposition MPs.
But it is clear that the UK’s parliamentary ‘lead’ on decryption powers is having geopolitical divisions. (The wider Europe Union is also currently considering how to answer to the rising use of strong encryption by digital services — though no congressional proposals have emerged as yet.)
Earlier this period Australia’s Brandis told Sky News he’s a fan of the UK’s IP Act, and said the nation wants to encourage all Five Eyes nations to pursue a similar policy of ramping up the legal obligations on tech companies and device makers to as he put it — “co-operate with authorities in decrypting communications”.
He has also beforehand said Australia does not want to mandate backdoors in assistance. However, in the same Sky News interview, Brandis shows that pressuring companies to break their own encryption does not enact a backdoor. Which is really a game of semantics.
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