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Proposed Anti-Terror Laws to give Law Enforcement Access to Personal Data

Last week, the Australian Government announced that it would propose new anti-terror laws that force telecommunications and multinational tech companies to give law enforcement agencies access to encrypted data of suspected criminals and terrorists.

Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor said the laws would give police, intelligence and security agencies the ability to bypass encryption on messaging (such as private messages sent on Whatsapp and Facebook), phone calls, photos, location and apps.

Mr Taylor was tight-lipped about whether surveillance codes would be put into mobile devices. He did, however, stress that there would not be a requirement for tech companies to build a “backdoor” function into apps and equipment, or provide an “encryption key” that allowed law enforcement to access data at any time. Instead he stressed the need for “collaboration” between law enforcement and tech service providers. Nevertheless, companies would still face significant fines if they did not comply with requests to release the data!

The legislation is expected to be released in coming weeks, and will be open to public consultation. A clear issue which has been raised is the privacy implications of the proposed law, since the Government has not disclosed whether the legislation will be supplemented by strengthened privacy measures with respect to how the law enforcement agencies treat the data. Security of the data to be accessed is another issue – will there be additional measures to protect decrypted data?

The policy will surely ignite the debate between enhancing law enforcement and security for Australians, and preventing unwarranted intrusions into Australians’ private lives.

Copyright 2020 K & L Gates


About this Author

Warwick Andersen Technology Lawyer KL Gates

Mr. Andersen is a senior corporate lawyer with a focus on commercial, technology and sourcing projects. He has advised on large scale outsourcing projects, technology agreements for both vendors and customers, corporate support, privacy and telecommunications regulatory work. He has acted for government departments, large listed companies, telecommunications companies and technology suppliers.

Rob Pulham Corporate Attorney K&L Gates
Special Counsel

Rob Pulham is an experienced corporate advisory and transactional lawyer with an active technology and privacy practice representing companies in the energy, manufacturing, mining, retail, health and financial services sectors, as well as government and not for profit organisations. He has extensive experience advising customers and vendors in the technology industry, with particular focus on software licensing, data privacy and protection, and systems integration projects. In his role as a senior corporate lawyer, Mr. Pulham reviews organisational policies and practices regarding data privacy to identify key risks, develops and implements strategies to mitigate privacy and cybersecurity risks, and advises clients in the investigation of, and response to, data breaches.

Mr. Pulham also serves as a strategic advisor to his clients, regularly advising on large outsourcing and technology procurement matters including negotiating software licensing terms with ERP and CRM vendors such as Oracle, SAP and Salesforce, and on major systems integration transactions. He advises his clients on all facets of their technology practices, procurement and needs, including key technology procurement requirements and licensing issues (acting for both customer and service provider clients), marketing and advertising in compliance with Australian competition and consumer laws, website content and terms of use, and general commercial intellectual property and software licensing matters.