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Australia’s draconian anti-encryption laws mean device makers blacklist Australian telecoms firms

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Australia’s national encryption laws are having a negative influence on the nation, as expected. The country’s largest telecommunications provider Telstra warned the Australian government about how several device vendors will consider skipping the country due to its stringent encryption laws.

Simply put, Australia’s encryption laws force tech companies to grant police and governmental agencies access to encrypted messages. They have essentially defeated the purpose of encryption and met with a strong negative response from the global internet community.

Coming to Telstra’s claims as to why device vendors will skip Australia, the company said that vendors usually shared technical information before launching products for testing. However, the latest laws are now forcing Telstra to divulge such sensitive technical information to interception agencies.

There are two problems here. One, telecommunication providers such as Telstra will essentially breach their “contractual confidentiality obligations” with the device vendors. Two, the laws will also drastically reduce the country’s ability to deploy and test cutting-edge technology.

“This has potential to adversely affect the competitiveness of Australian telecommunications providers in international markets and their ability to deploy the latest technology developments (e.g. new smartphones, artificial intelligence, and IoT devices),” said the company in a submission made to the government of Australia.

The company further expressed that the encryption law also posed several technical difficulties such as degradation of service and network faults.

The encryption laws, passed in December 2018 primarily defined three notices that would be served by an interception agency to communication providers:

  1. Technical Assistance Requests (TAR)– A voluntary request for the communication provider to use their “existing” capabilities for accessing user communications
  2. Technical Assistance Notices (TAN)– A mandatory notice to use the existing capability
  3. Technical Capability Notices (TCN)– A mandatory notices to build an interception capability for meeting the TAN guideline

Several industry groups in Australia have called for the removal of TANs, which would essentially nullify TCNs and prevent the government from making any mandatory or compulsory requests to grant access to encrypted messages and information.

Tech companies such as cloud service providers have expressed that Australia is being blacklisted. Several critics of the encryption laws have pointed out that major damage will be done to the Australian industry as other nations will be skeptical with regards to buying any Australian-manufactured technology.

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