by Rebecca Merrett

EFA endorses petition against criminalisation of cryptography research

Jul 16, 2015

Civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has endorsed a petition against an amendment to the Defence Trade Controls Act, arguing that it could prevent local researchers from participating in international studies.

The proposed amendment to the Act will prohibit the “intangible supply” of encryption technologies.

When this law comes into effect on 2 April 2016, it could result in Australian researchers being cut off from collaborating in international research as ‘intangible’ means someone outside Australia receiving the encryption technology.

The proposed law would apply to both military goods and technologies for commercial use, which includes the supply by electronic means.

“Not only is civilian cryptographic research a necessary component of a vibrant digital economy, it is also a vital tool for protection of our privacy against illegal and unethical surveillance and criminal attacks,” EFA Chair David Cake said in a statement.

“We are deeply concerned about Australia’s Defence Trade Controls Act (DTCA),” IACR wrote in its online petition.

“As an international organisation of cryptographic researchers and educators, we are concerned that the DTCA criminalises the very essence of our association: to advance the theory and practice of cryptography in the service of public welfare.

“Open, international scientific collaboration is responsible for the encryption technologies that are now vital to individuals, businesses, and world governments alike.”

The petition was set up by the International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR) earlier this month, with 188 signatories from cryptography researchers and cyber security professionals around the world.