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Australia Readies Encryption Rule That Could Fine Apple

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The Australian government on Tuesday (Aug. 14) put forth a new law that would call on technology companies, including Apple, to provide access to encrypted data if they receive a warrant.

According to a report in 9to5Mac, failure to comply with the rule would result in fines as high as $7.3 million and the potential for jail time. The report states that Apple does comply with court orders asking for access to encrypted data when it has the ability to do so and when it is legal, but it cannot comply for Messages or FaceTime, which use end-to-end encryption. Only the device receiving the message can understand the data and Apple doesn’t have access to the encryption code, so as a result they can’t provide access.

The report noted that the Australian government, as well as governments around the world, don’t seem to understand how end-to-end encryption works, thus the proposal from Australia dubbed the Assistance and Access Bill.

“Our legislation for telecommunication intercepts, being able to access data, in order to investigate and prosecute criminal activity, with a warrant, is no longer fit for purpose,” Angus Taylor, the minister for law enforcement and cybersecurity, told Reuters, according to 9to5Mac. “Whether it’s pedophiles or terrorists or drug dealers, it makes sure we have legislation fit for purpose in a modern era.”

The law started making the rounds in June, with one cybersecurity expert telling 9to5Mac that the rule showcases the confusion on the part of the Australian government.

At the same time that the Australian government is readying this rule, Apple is in clean-up mode, telling U.S. lawmakers last week that its iPhone isn’t listening in on users without their permission, and that it doesn’t let third-party app developers listen in on customers’ calls. According to a report in CNBC, Representatives Greg Walden, Marsha Blackburn, Gregg Harper and Robert Latta sent a letter to Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook and Alphabet Chief Executive Larry Page in July, citing concerns about smartphones collecting audio data from users without their knowledge. Apple said iPhones don’t record audio while listening for Siri wake up commands, and that Siri doesn’t share the words spoken to the digital virtual assistant.

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