The Assistance and Access bill is a new law the Australian government is trying to pass that will essentially give it access to everything and anything that it’s citizens do online.
The bill allows the government to demand access to all private data kept by both citizens and foreigners visiting the country. It grants the government and authorities permission to read your email, text messages, online conversations and access to view any files you keep both in online cloud storage or physical devices. Refusal to supply passwords or private keys can reportedly result in up to 10 years imprisonment and a considerable fine. The bill also permits the government to demand that companies build ‘backdoor’ features into technology to allow for surveillance.
If you’re thinking this is beginning to sound a lot like a George Orwell novel, you’d be right. The law is proposed with the intention of protecting citizens from terrorism and crime but as with many previous similar laws, it will likely have limited success. While some citizens may get fined for petty online offenses, real cybercriminals will probably continue to operate on the dark web and via hidden channels.
One of the most likely casualties of the new bill will be the blockchain industry within Australia. While the majority of blockchain projects and users have nothing to hide, the nature of decentralized, encrypted technology means it will be impossible to comply with the requirements of the law. Since project founders and developers have no access to passwords or private keys, in most cases they would be unable to comply with requests for information. Furthermore, if they were able to then doing so would jeopardize the nature of the blockchain, negating the purpose of the technology and driving away customers.
Fortunately, some of the world’s largest corporations have come together to oppose the law via a coalition called the Digital Industry Group Incorporated (DIGI). Should the bill be passed, however, and other countries follow suit, it will drastically turn back the clock on technology – all the way to 1984.