Apple has submitted a seven-page letter to the Australian Parliament opposing the Australian government’s draft law — known as the Access and Assistance Bill. A full copy of that letter is presented at the end of our report so you can view it in its entirety.
Many in the press continue to believe that Apple’s fight with the Australian bill is about safeguarding encryption and yet Apple’s letter makes it abundantly clear that Apple is fighting the bill in areas far beyond encryption.
In the big picture, Apple knows that their letter isn’t just narrowly confined to the Australian bill, but rather responding to the concerns and positions taken by the Five-Eyes security group.
The five security agencies under the Five-Eyes umbrella represent Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and most importantly the U.S. If Australia’s bill is passed to safeguard Australians, then the other four countries will no doubt use this case as a blueprint against Apple and other players in Silicon Valley.
Apple’s concern about encryption is understandable being that they sell the most popular smartphones in the world. Apple’s iPhone handles financial transactions via Apple Pay and will be a storehouse for user’s personal health records over time.
You have to respect Apple for taking a stance on encryption in respect to the specific apps that they make a case for. 100% of consumers demand encryption for key apps and Apple fighting for them is applauded.
I don’t believe however that 100% of those same consumers want to protect a jihadist from sending a kill order to blow up a school; or allowing human smugglers to grab children from a specific playground at a specific time to assist an MS 13 kingpin reach his quota set by a Mexican cartel.
While the Australian Government wants major flexibility with tech companies like Apple, Apple says sure – but only under our 6 new deeply devised conditions. Apple’s new list of six issues is designed to create a new wall of defense and causing gridlock in the Australian Parliament like it is in the U.S. With gridlock, lobbyists win, not the people.
Apple’s letter to the Australian Parliament clearly shows that Apple is now widening their issue foundation from protecting encryption to now being concerned over general security matters.
At one point in the letter, Apple lists their five new deep conditions that they’re demanding be present in the Australian Bill Apple states that “While the bill presents many questions and opportunities for clarification, we focus our comments on several overarching themes: (1) overly broad powers that could weaken cybersecurity and encryption; (2) a lack of appropriate independent judicial oversight, (3) technical requirements based only on the government’s subjective view of reasonableness and practicability, (4) unprecedented interception requirements, (5) unnecessarily stifling secrecy mandates, and (6) extraterritoriality and global impact.” You could read about Apple’s 5 key themes and more below in a copy of Apple’s 7 page letter to the Australian Parliament.
Apple’s full Submission to the Australian Parliament courtesy of Patently Apple
Beyond the five deep objections/concerns presented in their letter provided above, they also provided a simple hypothetical scenario that has nothing to do with encryption that was revealing. Apple said that the Australian bill could allow the government to order a smart speaker maker to install persistent eavesdropping capabilities into them. Of course Apple was thinking about their HomePod without identifying it specifically. This scenario has nothing to do with encryption.
In the new Australian bill, Tim Cook and any of Apple’s engineers revealing such a government project could be thrown in jail and charged a huge fine.
Apple made that a point under #5 titled “unnecessarily stifling secrecy mandates.” Apple doesn’t like the fact that the government could fine and jail companies and employees who reveal secret project to the press.
That’s so basic that it’s hard to believe that Apple would make it such a big deal. Cook has preached to their employees on a number of occasions that if they squealed about a secret project to the press that they would be charged. One employee did get fired over the simplest thing – mercilessly. So on that point to the Australian Parliament we see pure hypocrisy at play.
If you’ve read Apple’s full letter and have an opinion on it, please send in your comments below.