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Australia To Push For Encryption Backdoors At Next 'Five Eyes' Meeting


There's been no unified push for encryption backdoors from world leaders, but the number of those suggesting it might be a good idea has increased in recent months. UK Prime Minister Theresa May recently said terrorists shouldn't be allowed to use Whatsapp to hide their conversations from law enforcement even as her own party members routinely use the app to engage in secure communications. Newly-elected French president Emmanuel Macron said basically the same thing while campaigning, stating a preference for compelled access to encrypted communications.

Shortly before he was shown the exit door, former FBI director James Comey floated the idea of an "international framework" for encryption backdoors. It appeared Comey realized he wasn't going to be able to sell this idea at home, so perhaps a little international peer pressure would push US legislators towards mandating lawful access.

Comey may get his wish, even if he won't be able to take advantage of it himself. Australian Attorney General George Brandis is stating he'll be pushing for backdoors at the next Five Eyes meetup.

The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, will meet in the Canadian city of Ottawa next week, where they will discuss tactics to combat terrorism and border protection, two senior Australian ministers said.

Australia has made it clear it wants tech companies to do much more to give intelligence and law enforcement agencies access to encrypted communications.

“I will raise the need to address ongoing challenges posed by terrorists and criminals using encryption,” Australian Attorney General Senator Brandis said in a joint statement.

“These discussions will focus on the need to cooperate with service providers to ensure reasonable assistance is provided to law enforcement and security agencies.”

Brandis has already rationalized away potential objections to backdooring encryption, reasoning that people's tendency to overshare on social media indicates they won't care if the government (or several governments, actually) has access to their private messages.

So far, there's very little real evidence criminals and terrorists are using encrypted services at a higher rate than non-criminals/terrorists. There have been several statements made to that effect and backed by public displays of devices law enforcement officials claim can't be unlocked, but most post-attack investigations show terrorists are still mostly using unencrypted communications platforms. Available evidence also shows investigations of normal criminal activity is rarely thwarted by device encryption. At this point, backdoors are a "solution" in need of a problem.

All that's happening here is a push to compromise personal security in the name of national security. A hole is hole, no matter how it's pitched in secret spy meetings.


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