Tech giants band against proposed Australia law seeking encrypted data

Technology companies have strongly opposed efforts to create what they see as a back-door to user’s data. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2018

Tech giants band against proposed Australia law seeking encrypted data

  • Facebook, Alphabet, Apple and Amazon will jointly lobby Australian lawmakers to amend the bill ahead of a parliamentary vote expected in a few weeks
  • Technology companies have strongly opposed efforts to create what they see as a back-door to user’s data

SYDNEY: Four global tech giants — Facebook, Apple, Alphabet and Amazon — will oppose an Australian law that would require them to provide access to private encrypted data linked to suspected illegal activities, an industry lobby group said on Wednesday.
Australia in August proposed fines of up to A$10 million ($7.2 million) for institutions and prison terms for individuals who do not comply with a court request to give authorities access to private data.
The government has said the proposed law is needed amid a heightened risk of terror attacks.
Seen as test case as other nations explore similar laws, Facebook, Alphabet, Apple and Amazon will jointly lobby lawmakers to amend the bill ahead of a parliamentary vote expected in a few weeks.
“Any kind of attempt by interception agencies, as they are called in the bill, to create tools to weaken encryption is a huge risk to our digital security,” said Lizzie O’Shea, a spokeswoman for the Alliance for a Safe and Secure Internet.
She said the four companies had confirmed their participation in the lobbying effort.
Representatives for the four firms did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokeswoman for Australia’s home affairs minister, who is overseeing the legislation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If the bill becomes law, Australia would be one of the first nations to impose broad access requirements on technology companies, though others are poised to follow.
The so-called Five Eyes nations, which share intelligence, said last month they would demand access to encrypted emails, text messages and voice communications through legislation.
The Five Eyes intelligence network, comprised of the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, have each repeatedly warned national security was at risk as authorities are unable to monitor communication of suspects.
Technology companies have strongly opposed efforts to create what they see as a back-door to user’s data, a stand-off that was propelled into the public arena by Apple’s refusal to unlock an iPhone used by an attacker in a 2015 shooting in California.
Frustrated by the deadlock, many countries are moving ahead with legislation, with New Zealand the latest to tighten oversight over access to online communication.
New Zealand said on Tuesday customs officers now have the authority to compel visitors to hand over passwords for their electronic devices. Tourists who refuse could face fines of NZ$5,000 ($3,292.00).


Social media app TikTok removes Daesh propaganda videos

Updated 22 October 2019

Social media app TikTok removes Daesh propaganda videos

  • An employee at TikTok told AFP that about 10 accounts were removed for posting the videos
  • The videos featured corpses being paraded through streets and Daesh fighters with guns
BEIJING: Social media app TikTok has taken down accounts that were posting propaganda videos for the Daesh group, a company employee said Tuesday, in the latest scandal to hit the popular platform.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, claimed some 500 million users globally last year, making it one of the most popular social apps.

An employee at TikTok told AFP that about 10 accounts were removed for posting the videos.

“Only one of those videos even had views that reached into double digits before being taken down,” said the staffer, who declined to be named.

The videos featured corpses being paraded through streets and Daesh fighters with guns, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story on Monday.

The Journal said the posts were from about two dozen accounts, which were identified by social media intelligence company Storyful.

“Content promoting terrorist organizations have absolutely no place on TikTok,” the company said in a statement emailed to AFP.

“We permanently ban any such accounts and associated devices as soon as identified, and we continuously develop ever-stronger controls to proactively detect suspicious activity,” it said.

Daesh's self-declared “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria fell in March, but the group remains active in several countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, as well as still inspiring jihadists through an online presence.

The TikTok platform, which allows users to create and share videos of 15 seconds, is particularly popular with teenagers.

“Unlike other platforms, which are centered around users’ friends or communities, TikTok is based on engaging with a never-ending stream of new content,” said Darren Davidson, the editor-in-chief of Storyful.

“The Daesh postings violate TikTok’s policies, but the sheer volume of content makes it difficult for TikTok to police their platform and root out these videos,” he said.

The app has been marred by controversy in recent months. In April, TikTok was briefly banned by an Indian court over claims it was promoting pornography among children.

The app is banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children.

The company has refuted the allegations, saying they abide by local privacy laws.

ByteDance has a version of TikTok in China called Douyin.