Today, CryptoAUSTRALIA, on behalf of an international coalition of 38 civil society organisations, technology companies, and trade associations, submitted comments to the Australian Parliament expressing concerns regarding the updated version of the Telecommunication and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018. If enacted, this bill will undermine encryption and threaten digital security and fundamental human rights, including the right to privacy. In August, the Australian government had released an “exposure draft” of the bill, which received approximately 14,000 comments, including earlier comments by a similar international coalition of civil society organisations, tech companies, and trade associations. On September 20, the Australian government introduced a slightly revised version of the Assistance and Access Bill 2018 in Parliament for review by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).

The coalition comments filed today include all 31 companies and organisations that joined the coalition comments in the earlier round, plus an additional 7 members. Despite the first round of comments, the coalition submission filed today explains that “the vast majority of the concerns we identified have not been addressed by the updated version of the bill.” In particular, although the draft bill states that the government may not require communications providers to create—or prevent them from repairing—“a systemic weakness or systemic vulnerability,” this language is undermined by the bill’s provisions creating powerful new tools for the Australian government. These include “technical assistance notices” and “technical capability notices,” through which the government could demand that companies weaken encryption and other security features of their products. The coalition also expressed concerns regarding the lack of adequate oversight for these new powers, the undue secrecy covering the use of the new tools, and the overbroad definition of “designated communications providers” covered by the bill.

The following quote can be attributed to Sharon Bradford Franklin, Director of Surveillance & Cybersecurity Policy, New America’s Open Technology Institute:

“It is astounding that only 10 days after the close of a public comment period in which they received thousands of submissions, the Australian government rushed forward with a slightly updated encryption bill that retains the flaws of the earlier version. The Australian Parliament should take seriously the concerns expressed by so many civil society organizations, tech companies, and others. This bill poses real threats to digital security and individual rights in Australia and beyond.”

The coalition comments submitted to the Australian government on September 9 are available here. The comments submitted today will be available after the Committee has confirmed receipt and authorised publication, per the Committee’s procedures for publication of submissions.

The following list of organisations and companies joined the submission:

Civil Society Organisations:

  • Access Now
  • Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
  • Blueprint for Free Speech
  • Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Constitutional Alliance
  • CryptoAUSTRALIA
  • Defending Rights & Dissent
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Electronic Frontiers Australia
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Engine
  • Enjambre Digital
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Free Software Foundation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
  • Linux Australia Inc.
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Open Rights Group
  • Privacy International
  • Restore The Fourth, Inc.
  • R Street Institute
  • Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic
  • World Privacy Forum
  • X-Lab

Technology Companies and Trade Associations:

  • ACT | The App Association
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Cloudflare
  • Computer & Communications Industry Association
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • i2Coalition
  • Internet Association
  • Microsoft
  • Reform Government Surveillance (RGS is a coalition of technology companies)
  • Startpage.com
  • Twitter

Update (13/10/18): The submission is available as 'Coalition of Civil Society Organisations & Technology Companies & Trade Associations' on the Australian Parliament website.