Australia's AG Says Public Will Be Cool With Encryption Backdoors Because They Use Facebook

from the talking-(out-of-your-ass)-points dept

In what has become standard operating procedure following a terrorist attack in any part of the (western) world, a top government official is calling for encryption backdoors. This call is being made despite the lack of evidence supporting the theory terrorists are encrypting their communications. And this particular call, being made by Australian Attorney General George Brandis, is being made despite Brandis claiming he’s not calling for encryption backdoors.


Brandis told the Sun Herald he plans to give agencies freer access to encrypted messaging, insisting the government didn’t want to force companies like Facebook and Apple to have a “back door” into its messaging platforms.


“At one point or more of that process, access to the encrypted communication is essential for intelligence and law enforcement,” Brandis said.

“If there are encryption keys then those encryption keys have to be put at the disposal of the authorities.”

You can call a backdoor “keys under the doormat,” but it’s still a backdoor even if you’re going in the front. Keys held by anyone are keys that can be compromised. It is impossible for law enforcement/intelligence agencies to claim a backdoor is a secure way to protect people’s privacy while providing lawful access. See also: the dumping of CIA/NSA software exploits. See also: leaking is still a thing. See also: the TSA’s (physical) master keys have been cloned… thanks to the TSA’s carelessness. And etc.

But it’s all OK even if someone evil manages to make copies of the encryption keys. Why? Because Facebook.

[H]e said the public’s attitudes towards privacy were changing, pointing to the so-called “Facebook generation”.

“I think also community attitudes, particularly among younger people towards the concept of privacy are changing,” Brandis said.

“In the Facebook generation when people put more and more of their own personal data out there, I think there is an entirely different attitude to privacy among young people then there was than perhaps a generation or two ago.”

Hello, false equivalency! Brandis makes statements about the government accessing people’s private messages (he specifically mentioned Whatsapp and iMessages) and thinks no one will have a problem with it because of what they publicly share on social media. One would hope — for the sake of their own sanity — that Brandis is being deliberately obtuse for the sake of pushing his non-backdoor backdoors. The only other explanation is that Brandis is an idiot who can’t suss out the difference between private communications and public sharing.

He backs up his baffling, possibly disingenuous assertion with a factoid generated out of thin air:

He suggested the the majority of people in Australia didn’t prioritise privacy over giving security agencies more “tools” to fight terrorism.

This person — who represents the public interest — should probably spend a bit more time actually listening to the public. The only people making these sorts of assertions are government officials. You rarely hear private citizens — especially not a majority of them — arguing for more government intrusion, even in the wake of terrorist attacks.

Nothing stops the fear train, though, not even simple logic. Backdoors that aren’t backdoors, backed with the conflation of public and private communications, and capped off with a declaration that this is what the public wants, even though the public has never expressed any such desire. It’s a bullshit Triple Crown win for Brandis, who certainly shouldn’t be allowed to handle any heavy government machinery in the future.

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Comments on “Australia's AG Says Public Will Be Cool With Encryption Backdoors Because They Use Facebook”

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Carlie Coats (profile) says:

Statuatory penalties

If they want to do that, and if they insist that such backdoors are safe and not a threat, then they should not object at all to a combination of large statuatory penalties for misuse or leaks (say, $500K per misuse or leak), together with broad subpoena powers to allow us to investigate misuse or leaks (e.g., any refusal of subpoena for whatever reason — including “national security” — shall constitute spoliation: you refuse the subpoena, you lose!).

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Lead by example, George. Enact a policy that all government communications and storage encryption – including that by intelligence agencies – have back doors. With only the good guys given the passwords, of course.

Then continue the top-down approach. Mandate back doors for banks and their online banking systems. Then other large corporations.

Once the public sees how that works, they’ll respond accordingly.

Hope This Helps!

Kyle says:

He may not be wrong

Looks like some users would abandon privacy for a pizza.

While encryption may be a ‘feature’ for some, it’s just a word for others and part of the mumbo-jumbo that makes whatever service they’re using on “the internet” actually work. They dont care about the details, it’s just a word to them. It has no value to them so they’ve lost nothing in their minds if now Facebook isn’t encrypted. They never “saw” it encrypted before, now it’s not encrypted, and they perceived no change in the service they receive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What he is really saying

George Brandis is where he is due to being at the top of the Liberal National Party of Queensland State Senate list below the line & when most voters vote above the line he automatically gets elected simply by being at the top of the list. The behind the scenes power plays to get to the top are quite brutal & rarely see the light of day. Being number 4 or 5 on the party list makes it that much harder to gain a Senate seat for your State.

In Queensland the Liberal & National Parties have combined forces & once elected the Senators & MP’s then chose which party they wish to belong to for Party meetings & other matters. Weird stuff as it doesn’t occur anywhere else in Australia in the Federal Parliament.

Anonymous Coward says:

Exactly the same arguement as rapists

I wouldn’t get in a car alone with George Brandis – he is using literally the same argument as rapists. The “sluts can’t be raped” arguement which is complete bullshit. Just because someone consented to something in the past doesn’t mean you can just do it to them against their will.

David says:

Re: Exactly the same arguement as rapists

Doesn’t mean you can’t put the woman through the slut-shaming psychological ordeal before court, possibly bagging a few jury members, and making her think twice before she reports the next time she has been raped.

Justice and civilization have different triggers and rules than gut feelings.

That rapists exploit the susceptibility of humans to that kind of had-it-coming argument and Schadenfreude doesn’t mean that politicians are above it. I mean, this is what “populism” is all about.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Exactly the same arguement as rapists

[Sad but True]

This is the correct analogy; reminds me of that US politician who says breaches of privacy don’t matter if nobody realises they’re being spied on.

In both cases it’s a lack of empathy and the idea that the pitcher is superior to the catcher. It really is rape culture. Can we call what Brandis et al are doing “Digital rape culture?”

George Brandis says:

One would hope … that Brandis is being deliberately obtuse… The only other explanation is that Brandis is an idiot…

What? What did you call me? Tim, I think you’re forgetting yourself. If you want to indulge yourself in this fantasy, that’s your business. But I assure you, there’s nothing deliberate about it: it’s totally instinctive, 100% natural talent. Guess I showed you who the real idiot is, now didn’t I?

ECA (profile) says:


Understands the “FUN” idiots on facebook have had??

Those TALKING on FB, while NOT at home, saying that the MALL was great, the movie would be starting in 5 minutes…TELLING THE WORLD they would be on Vacation…

How many idiots had a thief break into their HOMES/APTS while they Texted from another location..BEING F”ing STUPID..

NOW what is the difference between programs that send 1 msg to 1 person over BROADCASTING to 200 people..

Be Respectful Here says:

Please, please, please, be respectful here

It is Senator George Brandis and he is one of the top barristers in Australia and he is the Australian Attorney-General. So we must be respectful when we refer to the man in this very important position in the Government of Australia.

Irrespective of whether or not his actions, statements, etc are those of a self-serving, arrogant and highly disrespectful imbecile, we, at least, should maintain a high level of decorum. We do not want to sink to his level.

Tear apart his statements all you like, but refer to the man by his title and position. Personally, Senator George Brandis cannot be trusted to do anything that will benefit the citizens of the greatest nation on Earth, Australia. He has demonstrated this time and time again.

He is a man who believes in the Rule of Law (he has publicly stated this) as long as the Rule of Law has been written by himself. Senator George Brandis will reap what he has sown and when he does, he will find out that he is not as influential or powerful or as immune from consequences as he thinks he is.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Please, please, please, be respectful here

Oh, very well….

YouTube – Monty Python – Politicians: An Apology

Text from Wikiquote:

We would like to apologize for the way in which politicians are represented in this programme. It was never our intention to imply that politicians are weak-kneed, political time-servers who are more concerned with their personal vendettas and private power struggles than the problems of government. Nor to suggest at any point that they sacrifice their credibility by denying free debate on vital matters in the mistaken impression that party unity comes before the well-being of the people they supposedly represent. Nor to imply at any stage that they are squabbling little toadies without an ounce of concern for the vital social problems of today. Nor indeed do we intend that viewers should consider them as crabby, ulcerous, little self-seeking vermin with furry legs and an excessive addiction to alcohol and certain explicit sexual practices which some people might find offensive.

We are sorry if this impression has come across.

Be Respectful Here says:

Re: Re: Please, please, please, be respectful here

You are including all Senators and Members of the House of Representatives from all parties? And at state level and even local level.

Remember too, that with the brush you judge with is the same brush by which you will be judged.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that when party politics gets going in government, then we see the care for the citizens go by the bye.

Here in Australia, it no longer matters which of the major political groupings your may support, they will all screw the citizenry into the ground.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Same thing, right?

Saying ‘People choose to share personal details on Facebook so they should be fine with broken encryption leaving all of their personal data open to perusal’ is rather like saying ‘People choose to let some people in their houses, so they should be fine with a whole bunch of random strangers coming inside whenever they want without getting permission first’.

He’s either grossly dishonest in comparing the two as though they were even remotely similar, or he’s a world-class idiot who actually does not see a difference, and in either case he’s a huge threat to the privacy and security of those around him and deserves to be removed from his position as soon as possible as both a threat to the public and unfit for office.

Be Respectful Here says:

Re: Same thing, right?

Senator George Brandis is a QC and the rule of thumb when dealing with QC’s is DON’T ever have any dealings with a QC. You will always come out the loser, it will always cost you more than you can ever expect and you’ll have your life ruined. For those who don’t know what a QC is, there are the highest level a barrister can get to.

QC’s work on the premise that whatever they are saying is always the truth and anyone who disagrees is wrong. They know exactly how to manipulate the law to get what they want with the consequences always falling on others.

So, in that light, Senator George Brandis is saying the “truth”, irrespective of any basis in reality. He has his agendas and they will be completed (at the detriment of everyone else).

Sambo (profile) says:

nail on the head

Oh you got it right near the end. George Brandis is an idiot who has no idea what he is talking about.

Just have a look at him here in what is regularly described as a ‘trainwreck interview’ trying to describe metadata when introducing our draconian data retention laws.

He has been a constant embarrassment for the Government and the word is they have been trying to get rid of him by sending him off to some diplomatic pasture post to but it is yet to materialize.

So, he stays Attorney General for now which makes him the worst kind of idiot.

A dangerous one.

The Central Scrutinizer (profile) says:

Yes, Brandis is an idiot, and a dangerous one. That youtube video that Sambo linked to shows his ignorance and wilful stupidity in full flight. He thinks a url is an “electronic address” of a website. He says that to either obfuscate or to show off his ignorance. That interview is a classic.
And Turnbull was on the news last night trying to soothe everyone that they didn’t want a back door, just access to encrypted comms. Face palm. This from a guy who himself uses encrypted messaging apps. The level of hypocrisy on display is breathtaking.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And Turnbull was on the news last night trying to soothe everyone that they didn’t want a back door, just access to encrypted comms.

"Why no officer, I do not believe I was speeding. I was merely travelling at a speed higher than the listed limit."

"No your honor, I most certainly did not assault that man. I merely applied physical force to various parts of their body that resulted in completely unforeseeable harm to their person."

"I object your honor, I did not rob the bank. I merely made a forced withdrawal of funds from the accounts of others there, via the display of a device which is capable of sending a small piece of metal at high speeds, and the mention that this action might take place were my polite requests for a withdrawal to be denied."

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