Australia wants to spy on WhatsApp messages with encryption law

CANBERRA: Australia is going to provide its police and intelligence services with the power to access encrypted messages on platforms like WhatsApp, making it the latest country to address privacy concerns in the name of public security. Through protests by companies such as Facebook and Google, the government and the main opposition agreed on Tuesday that they should see legislation passed by parliament this week. Under the proposed powers, technology companies could be forced to help decipher communications in public

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that legislation is needed to help counter terrorist attacks. Critics say it is wrong and could undermine security over the internet, endangering activities from electronic voting to market marketing and data storage.

The legislation pushes Australia to the heart of a world-class warfare war between technology companies and governments on privacy and security. In 2016, the US Department of Justice colluded with Apple when the company refused to unlock an iPhone linked to a massive shooting in San Bernardino, California. The UK government, meanwhile, has a critical critique of WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption following the messaging service used by a terrorist just before killing five in London in March 2017.

Australian government adviser Alastair MacGibbon said on Wednesday that authorities were able to track telephone communications legally for nearly 40 years and needed new forces to keep pace with modern technology.

Law enforcement officials have "blind or deaf" because of encryption, he said. "What this law is doing is to help encode a conversation between police and telecoms companies that should be reasonable, must be proportionate and technically feasible," he added.