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Government Surveillance

CDT Joins Joint Statement Urging Australian Government to Protect End-to-End Encryption in Review Process of the Online Safety Act


From the statement:

End-to-end encryption plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety, security and privacy of millions in Australia. However, the statutory review of the Australian Online Safety Act erroneously characterises end-to-end encryption as an obstacle to online safety and law enforcement, instead of recognising that it is essential for online security and weakening it reduces safety for all.

The Online Safety Act risks becoming forever known as the Online ‘Unsafety’ Act if strong protections for communications and stored information secured by end-to-end encryption are not included in the Act. Without clear protections, the eSafety Commissioner may soon issue industry standards under the Australian Online Safety Act that effectively force service providers to weaken or circumvent end-to-end encryption to monitor and intercept communications.

These measures would weaken the security, confidentiality and integrity of communications while they are transmitted or in storage. A failure to safeguard end-to-end encryption will make all Australians and people around the world less safe, not more.

Further, the addition of a general duty of care to the Act, without safeguarding encryption, suggests compelling service providers to remove or circumvent the confidentiality of end-to-end encryption in order to meet their duty of care obligations. This would pave the way for pervasive surveillance and damage online safety as well as the human rights to privacy and free expression.

End-to-end encryption not only protects children from bad actors harvesting their personal data or intercepting and taking over their communications – it also protects children by preventing their personal data from being used for profiling and advertising.

We urge the Australian government to utilise the Online Safety Act review process to course correct and actively protect and encourage the use of end-to-end encryption. Doing so would benefit people, businesses, and governments and would be crucial to achieving the goal of the Online Safety Act.

Read the full statement + list of signatories.