Government to base encryption legislation on UK Snoopers’ Charter

Tech companies to have a legal obligation to assist security agencies

The use of encrypted messaging services by terrorists and criminals “is potentially the most significant degradation of intelligence capability in modern times,” home affairs minister Peter Dutton has told the ASEAN Counter Terrorism Conference in Sydney.

“As well as using the Internet to radicalise and recruit new members, and spread messages of hate, terrorist groups are using encrypted messaging apps to plan attacks and avoid detection by our law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” Dutton said in a speech delivered on Saturday.

“Terrorists and violent extremists” increasingly operate transnationally and use “the internet and encrypted communication to extend their reach across borders,” the minister said.

The government has previously indicated it intends to introduce legislation to help counter the use of encryption by criminals.

In January the Attorney-General’s Department said that legislation to “enable Australian law enforcement and security agencies to adapt to the challenges posed by ubiquitous encryption” was in “an advanced stage of development.”

Dutton confirmed that the legislation will be based on the UK Investigatory Powers Act 2016 also known as the Snoopers’ Charter.

Dutton said that under the legislation companies that provide communications “services and devices” in Australia will “have an obligation to assist agencies”.

Under the UKIP Act, operators of communications services can be served with a “technical capability notice” obliging them to remove “electronic protection applied by or on behalf of that operator to any communications or data”.

The Australian legislation will also “enhance agencies with the ability to use alternative capabilities, like surveillance devices and computer network exploitation,” Dutton said.