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Australian Gov't Proposes Expanding Police Access to Electronic Device Content

© REUTERS / Jason LeeA man checks share prices on his mobile phone while waiting for his coffee at a Starbucks branch in Beijing July 16, 2015.
A man checks share prices on his mobile phone while waiting for his coffee at a Starbucks branch in Beijing July 16, 2015. - Sputnik International
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Australian Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Agnus Taylor released on Tuesday an exposure draft of the bill that would expand the Australian law enforcement agencies' access to the electronic devices' content and also force technology companies to assist the police in decrypting information.

"The Director-General of Security, the Director-General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Director-General of the Australian Signals Directorate or the chief officer of an interception agency may give a technical assistance request to a designated communications provider. A technical assistance request may ask the provider to do acts or things on a voluntary basis that are directed towards ensuring that the provider is capable of giving certain types of help," the bill reads.

The new legislation envisages the introduction of "technical assistance notice" forcing technology companies to assist law enforcement agencies investigating a case in decrypting information if it is "reasonable, proportionate, practical and technically feasible."

READ MORE: German Gov't Sued Over Spying on Encrypted Messaging Services

Such assistance may include giving access to devices or services, sharing encryption keys, providing necessary technical information and removing electronic protection of the data, while the end-to-end encryption, which is the users' application of an encryption key, will remain out of law enforcement agencies' jurisdiction.

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Under the bill, a new form of "computer access warrant" will be introduced, which will enable law enforcement agencies to covertly obtain the necessary data from an electronic device belonging to a person suspected of an offense envisaging three or more years of detention, without informing this person on surveillance.

The computer access warrant will be expanded to information associated with online accounts, as the "account-based data" definition is changed under the proposed legislation.

The bill will increase the penalty for refusing to provide the Australian Border Force evidence that an electronic device contains if the Border Force has a related warrant. The penalty that now stands at six months of imprisonment will be raised up to 10 years in case of serious offenses.

READ MORE: FBI Resumes Attempts to Gain Access to Private Data on Mobile Phones

According to the Australian government's Cyber Security Review, cybercrime costs the country's economy up to $1 billion in its direct costs only every year.

Th Australian Parliament will have debated the bill by the end of December, according to its Sitting calendar.

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