You know things are dire when Facebook — the social media giant renowned for data breaches — is outraged by Peter Dutton’s attitude to privacy.
Putting the recently passed Assistance and Access Bill 2018 (AA Bill) to use for the first time, the Coalition, in partnership with the US and UK governments, asked Zuckerberg to help them “stop criminals and abusers in their tracks”.
But the social media behemoth has balked at the request to put the brakes on its plan to implement end-to-end encryption to all its messaging services. In fact, it has likened backdoor access to “a gift to criminals, hackers and repressive regimes”.
The heads of Facebook’s hugely popular messaging services WhatsApp and Messenger — Will Cathcart and Stan Chudnovsky respectively — called the backdoor proposal counter-intuitive and reductive.
“Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly proven that when you weaken any part of an encrypted system, you weaken it for everyone, everywhere,” Cathcart and Chudnovsky said in a joint statement.
“It is simply impossible to create such a backdoor for one purpose and not expect others to try to open it.”
Testifying at a US Senate hearing on encryption, Messenger’s director of product management for privacy and integrity Jay Sullivan confirmed Facebook plans to encrypt communications across its products — including Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram — have not been swayed by the governments.
“We can be certain that if we build a backdoor for the US government, other governments, including repressive and authoritarian regimes around the world, will demand access or try to gain it clandestinely, including to persecute dissidents, journalists and their political opponents,” Sullivan testified.
Possibly self-serving intentions aside, by pushing forward, Facebook is backing Aussie startups in their stance against the AA Bill.
In startupland, the community has remained consistently one-tone about the legislation, in response to both the passing of the bill and to Minister of Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews’ insistence the bill didn’t require more consultation from the tech sector.
“It’s definitely a backward step … and continues a political narrative that sees tech put further and further out in the cold,” StartupAus chief operating officer Alex Gruszka said back in February.
Last we heard on the local beat, the independent national security legislation monitor, Dr James Renwick, has opted to extend the deadline for AA Bill review submissions indefinitely.
Renwick in August announced the deferral after receiving an underwhelming number of submissions — only 15 at the time compared to the 105 responses submitted for the initial review last December.