Brad Smith, the chief legal officer of Microsoft, warned that companies and foreign governments were “no longer comfortable” to send their data to Australia after the Bill Assistance and Access Bill, which gives security agencies stronger powers to access the figures of suspects, has been hastily adopted by Parliament and legislated at the end of last year.

Smith told an audience in Canberra that the laws were too vague and damaging to the Australian technology industry as well as the economy in general, as companies worried about privacy and looked to foreign markets. “When I travel to other countries, I hear companies and governments say” we are no longer comfortable placing our data in Australia “. They’re asking us to create more data centers in other countries, “said Smith. At the end of last year, the Australian House of Representatives passed the Bill Assistance and Access Bill. The anti-encryption bill allows the country’s police and anti-corruption forces to request, before compelling them, Internet companies, telecom operators, courier providers or anyone deemed necessary to access to content that agencies want to access.

A report identified some key points. Under this law, Australian government agencies could issue three types of notices: Technical Advisory Notices (TANs), which are binding notices, requiring a communications provider to use interception capability they already have; Technical Capability Notices (TCNs), which are binding notices that require a communications provider to create a new interception capability, so that it can comply with subsequent technical assistance notices; and finally Technical Assistance Requests (TARs), described by experts as the most dangerous of all. In practice, Assistance and Access Bill will allow the police to request messaging services such as WhatsApp and Signal to integrate backdoors, to give investigators access to the content of messages provided that these backdoors do not constitute “systemic weaknesses” in service security. The federal government argues that these laws are essential in the fight against terrorism and serious crimes, but the technology industry has described them as having an overbroad range that would be detrimental to the fight against terrorism. industry and would undermine privacy.

Security experts are almost unanimous against backdoors, precisely because of this weakening. Once such a mechanism has been implemented in the app, it creates a target for spy agencies and spying companies from other countries who might want to see what people are talking about, but also for hackers. Australia is the first member of the Five Eyes Information Sharing Pact (consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) to pass a bill of that type. The issue of encryption has been a concern for intelligence agencies and legislators around the world for several years now. Especially after NSA whistleblower surveillance revelations, Edward Snowden, technology companies like Apple, Google and WhatsApp have used stronger and stronger encryption to convince users that they can communicate securely.

Meanwhile, some investigators have expressed frustration at their inability to see what the suspects are saying or saying. Smith recalled that Australia had built a reputation that made it a destination for businesses wanting to store their customers’ data. This image has changed in the last six months. “It has not changed, to date, all we have had to do in Australia, but we are concerned about some aspects of the law in terms of potential consequences.” Microsoft worries about confidentiality in Australia Smith said he did not believe the laws were aimed at creating a “back door” that would undermine encryption technology but called the legislation vague.

Smith said it was in the Australian government’s interest to ease or change concerns about the legislation: “There is a wonderful phrase that allows companies to avoid creating systemic weakness, but this sentence ‘is not defined,’ he said. “Until it is defined, I think that people will worry and that we will be among those who will worry because we believe it is vitally important to protect the privacy of our clients “. The Australian technology industry has reiterated this week its requests for changes to laws before the elections, saying there should be more control and a reduction in scope. Australian companies, Huawei in the making? The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) has rejected accusations that the laws would give security agencies unhindered power or that technology company would be forced to look abroad. “Australia is not the first country to adopt this type of legislation – and we will not be the last,” said ASD chief executive Mike Burgess.

“UK agencies already have similar powers and other countries are considering their options. The assertions that the legislation will drive technology companies abroad are also defective. “Mike Burgess ended up qualifying as” myth “fears of Australian companies who fear for their reputation internationally because of the law on encryption. At the Sydney Forum, this statement was rejected by industry participants. Eddie Sheehy, a tech investor, and former chief executive of cybersecurity provider Nuix, said Burgess “does not know what he says.

“He added that, in response to a later question, the law had the “ability to transform many Australian companies into Huawei in that in many places, many might hesitate to use them.” Nicola Nye, Chief of Staff at FastMail, said some clients were no longer using his services because of the law, while others had expressed concerns through submissions to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security. The committee is studying the proposed amendments and will report next week.