The Australian government is at its dithering best (worst?) when it comes a number of things to do with the digital economy. While the NBN is struggling to deliver really fast services, they did a pretty good job with the national cybersecurity strategy. Which is why their flailing attempts at articulating their views on messaging services that use encryption is so infuriating.
Here’s the government’s problem. For most of the last century, law enforcement had a relatively easy time of it listening in to our phone calls. All they needed was a warrant and a tap on the shoulder of the telco (that they conveniently owned) and they could listen in on whatever they wanted.
Then this pesky thing called progress happened. We got the internet and strong encryption became legal. Jump forward a couple of decades and we can use apps like Signal, WhatsApp or iMessage to commune with whomever we want without any chance of people snooping unless they hack your endpoint devices – something intelligence agencies are pretty good at.
There have been the occasional murmurs from the office of the Attorney General George Brandis, who seems determined to steal former Communications Minister Richard Alston’s trophy as the worlds greatest luddite, that tech companies should build back doors into their systems, as if those would only stay in the “safe hands” of government.
Encryption is an important technology – something the Prime Minister said in parliament today. With messaging service providers not retaining decryption keys, they have no way of giving access to our messages unless they make their platforms less secure.
So, I’m asking the hive mind of Lifehacker readers – is there a way around this conundrum that gives law enforcement a way of accessing encrypted messages that are being used by criminals that doesn’t compromise the right to privacy enjoyed (at least for now) of every Australian citizen?