explainer

The four ways Australia's new encryption laws could actually affect us.

With AAP.

For over a year, the Australian government have been pushing for the introduction of “outrageous” encryption legislation.

And now, with the support of Labor, the controversial new laws have been passed at the last minute.

According to AAP, the new laws will allow authorities to get access to encrypted messages before Christmas.

Although Labor initially had issues with the new laws, they were quickly passed ahead of security concerns around terrorism over the holiday period.

Labor said its support for the laws was contingent on the government amending the new laws in February 2019.

“We’re prepared to let it go forward on that basis knowing there’s more work to be done,” Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters on Thursday night.

But what really is encryption and how will these new laws actually affect us?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is encryption?

According to the ABC, encryption is the process of encoding data.

Put simply, it’s the technology that allows messages to stay secret between the sender and the receiver.

But encryption doesn’t just stop at messaging apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. From personal banking apps to stock market trading and health information storage, encryption is used all over the web to protect information.

Although there’s always a threat of your information getting into the wrong hands on the net, encryption provides an extra layer of protection.

What does the new encryption bill do?

Australia’s new encryption laws are a world-first – and they’re garnering a lot of negative attention from human rights groups, lawyers and technology companies.

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“We now have a situation where unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications are now law, even though Parliament knows serious problems exist,” Law Council of Australia President Morry Bailes said in a press release.

According to AAP, the new laws will require technology companies to help police and intelligence agencies see encrypted messages, which experts say will mean encryption will be broken.

Attorney-General Christian Porter told the lower house the new powers are necessary to prevent further terrorist events.

They include extending the powers to state and territory police forces and ensuring they cover a broad range of serious offences and not simply terrorism.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists ordinary Australians will not be captured by the laws, which are designed to stop terrorists and pedophiles from communicating in secret.

“This is not about politics, this is about Australia’s national security,” the Prime Minister told reporters.

But according to Business Insider, it seems the law will affect ordinary Australians.

The new legislation means that tech workers may be forced to cooperate with law enforcement to write code to hack into encrypted messages.

According to Attorney-General Porter, police and national security agencies will require a warrant to access encrypted messages.

“All this legislation does is request – and if they decline, require – the tech companies to assist us in making good in the warrant,” Porter said.

This means that a website owner or a smartphone manufacturer could be forced to “remove electronic protection” by bypassing encryption.

This also creates a risk for tech employees. A tech worker could face severe penalties, including jail time, if they disclose the request to bypass encryption to anyone, including their employer.

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Tech experts have warned that this means tech workers could be jailed, and they also risk losing their jobs under the new laws.

How could the encryption laws affect us?

There’s a number of ways the new encryption laws could potentially affect us.

First of all, the bill is bad news for tech workers. Not only does the new law open up workers to penalties and jail time, it could also affect Australia’s tech job market.

With the bill being it’s first in it’s kind in Australia, it’s likely some software companies will choose to not work in Australia.

This ultimately affects consumers too.

In fact, there’s a chance companies as big as Apple may refuse to do business in Australia.

The new law could also have an impact on messaging apps like WhatsApp or Signal.

According to AAP, encrypted messaging applications, like WhatsApp, are used in an estimated 95 per cent of serious criminal activity.

Although these messaging apps are generally based overseas, there are penalties in place for non-compliance under the new encryption laws, which has some experts questioning whether Australia’s access to these apps could be affected.

There’s also security threats associated with the new laws.

Although the law was created to prevent terrorism, the new laws could create further security risks.

In fact, there’s international concern that the laws could even make the internet less secure, by making it easier for criminals to hack us.

What do you think about the new laws? Let us know in the comments.

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