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).


Facebook to apply state media labels on Russian, Chinese outlets

Updated 05 June 2020

Facebook to apply state media labels on Russian, Chinese outlets

  • Facebook will not label any US-based news organizations
  • Social media giant said even US government-run outlets have editorial independence

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook will start labeling Russian, Chinese and other state-controlled media organizations, and later this summer will block any ads from such outlets that target US users, it said on Thursday.
The world’s biggest social network will apply the label to Russia’s Sputnik, Iran’s Press TV and China’s Xinhua News, according to a partial list Facebook provided. The company will apply the label to about 200 pages at the outset.
Facebook will not label any US-based news organizations, as it determined that even US government-run outlets have editorial independence, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in an interview.
Facebook, which has acknowledged its failure to stop Russian use of its platforms to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, has since stepped up its defenses and imposed greater transparency requirements for pages and ads on its platforms.
The company announced plans last year to create a state media label, but is introducing it amid criticism over its hands-off treatment of misleading and racially charged posts by US President Donald Trump.
The new measure comes just months ahead of the November US presidential election.
Under the move, Facebook will not use the label for media outlets affiliated with individual political figures or parties, which Gleicher said could push “boundaries that are very, very slippery.”
“What we want to do here is start with the most critical case,” he said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing in Beijing on Friday that social media companies should not selectively create obstacles for media agencies.
“We hope that the relevant social media platform can put aside the ideological bias and hold an open and accepting attitude toward each country’s media role,” he said.
Facebook is not the first company to take such action.
YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google, in 2018 started identifying video channels that predominantly carry news items and are funded by governments. But critics charge YouTube has failed to label some state news outlets, allowing them to earn ad revenue from videos with misinformation and propaganda.
In a blog post, Facebook said its label would appear on pages globally, as well as on News Feed posts within the United States.
Facebook also said it would ban US-targeted ads from state-controlled entities “out of an abundance of caution” ahead of the November presidential election. Elsewhere, the ads will receive a label.