Apple has joined the chorus of global technology companies criticising the government’s proposed Access and Assistance Bill in a scathing submission.
On late Friday afternoon, the government published an additional 31 submissions made to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, with Apple’s submission amongst them.
“While we are pleased that some of the suggestions incorporated improve the legislation, the unfortunate fact is that the draft legislation remains dangerously ambiguous with respect to encryption and security,” Apple states in its 7-page submission.
“We encourage the government to stand by their stated intention not to weaken encryption or compel providers to build systemic weaknesses into their products.
“Due to the breadth and vagueness of the bill’s authorities, coupled with ill-defined restrictions, that commitment is not currently being met.”
The publication of the submission came just days after Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton hit back at the bill’s “vocal opponents” in Silicon Valley.
Like previous complaints, Apple highlighted that the weakening of security is not an option.
“For instance, the bill could allow the government to order the makers of smart home speakers to install persistent eavesdropping capabilities into a person’s home, require a provider to monitor the health data of its customers for indications of drug use, or require the development of a tool that can unlock a particular user’s device regardless of whether such tools could be used to unlock every other user’s device as well,” it says.
“All of these capabilities should be as alarming to every Australian as they are to us.”
Encryption as a tool
Rather than weakening encryption, Apple urged the government to look at it as an asset.
“Encryption is the single best tool we have to protect data and ultimately lives,” it says.
“Software innovations of the future will depend on the foundation of strong device security.
"To allow for those protections to be weakened in any way slows our pace of progress and puts everyone at risk.”
It dismissed the premise that access to encrypted data could be provided to a select few, reminding the government “encryption is just math".
“Any process that weakens the mathematical models that protect user data for anyone will by extension weaken the protections for everyone.
“It would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.”