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Aussie exodus fears over cyber law

The founder of a Perth technology company says the Federal Government’s anti-encryption legislation risks turning Australia into a technological “backwater”.

The laws are designed to help security agencies and police access communications on encrypted applications such as WhatsApp, which are used in an estimated 95 per cent of criminal activity.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced yesterday that Labor would be dropping proposed amendments to the laws, clearing the way for the Bill to pass Federal Parliament.

Miles Burke, founder and managing director of 6Q, which has customers in the US and Europe, said he had spoken to a local secure storage start-up which was considering not selling services to Australian companies because of the laws.

“The risk for Australia to become a backwater due to corporations like Apple, Facebook and Google not providing their services here is very real,” he said.

“I believe we would see a large exodus of technology companies from Australia. It wouldn’t be worth the security risk to be based in Australia if these laws came into power.”

Under the legislation, the Government could issue “technical capability notices” to technology companies, forcing them to help design “back doors” and install spyware on devices to crack encrypted messages.

Mr Miles likened the “back door” to a putting a new entrance on your home or office.

“Once it is there, even though it may say ‘Government employees only’, other people will naturally try to gain access through it,” he said.

“There is no technical way to create a back door purely for government use only.”

Mr Miles said complying with the new laws could potentially put his company in breach of overseas privacy legislation such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

“If this were to happen, we would likely move our customer data offshore, to prevent access from the Government, and worst case, we would stop providing services to Australian customers to circumvent the need for a back door,” he said.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said he was pleased with the negotiated legislation.

He said police and national security agencies would still require a warrant to access the encrypted messages.

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

with AAP

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