Australia passes an anti-terrorism law forcing tech firms to hand over encrypted data

Australia's Parliament passed a controversial bill that will force technology firms to give police access to the encrypted communications of suspected terrorists and criminals. The bill caused heated debate over national security and privacy at a time when governments across the globe are grappling with how to access encrypted information to monitor illegal activities. The law is opposed by tech giants, where Australian security services are given authority under the law to obtain a warrant for international communications companies including Google, Facebook, and WhatsApp to remove encryption, help conceal government snooping, and hand over data linked to suspected illegal activities.

Critics say the law may unleash unintended consequences, with global implications for encrypted communications. Global communications firms have warned the law would force them to create vulnerabilities in their products that could then be used by other bad actors to gain a back door to users' data. They are also concerned about how the law's secrecy provisions will impact their business models and consumer privacy.

The law has raised questions about policy laundering through Australia, a member of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing group that also includes the United States, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand. "There is an extraterritorial dimension to it, where for example the U.S. would be able to make ... a request directly to Australia to get information from Facebook or a tech company," said Queensland University of Technology's technology regulation researcher Monique Mann.