Australia’s independent online safety regulator has made concessions on new rules to force big tech companies to take stronger action to detect child abuse and terrorist content.

Some of the best technology companies in the country Reply with a warning From the possibility of mass government surveillance if they are forced to take action on problematic content on encrypted messaging services and cloud storage.

led by Julie Inman GrantThe Electronic Safety Commissioner is a government agency “committed to keeping its citizens safe online”. The statutory body has regulatory powers relating to cyberbullying, image abuse and illegal and harmful online content.

Last November, eSafety put out a slew of draft standards that seemed aimed at reining in operators of cloud and messaging services, such as Apple, Proton, and Signal, forcing them to detect and remove specific content “where technically feasible.” To make it difficult for such materials to appear again.

However, technology companies were unhappy because there was no understanding or agreed process on how they would comply with the rules. In a related discussion paper, the agency stated that it “does not advocate building in vulnerabilities or backdoors to undermine privacy and security in end-to-end encrypted services.”

Given the ambiguity of regulations and other materials such as the paper referenced above, tech companies have raised the alarm that end-to-end encryption will not protect, with Apple emphasizing that everyone’s online communications could be left open to mass surveillance. “Technical feasibility” was a very broad and non-specific term, to the point that companies were concerned about whether it was financially possible to cover and implement. This went beyond encryption concerns and proved to be a point of retreat for the Cyber ​​Safety Commissioner.

– Failure to protect children from abuse

Papers were submitted to Parliament on Friday setting out final online safety standards, omitting the requirement that encryption be broken and companies would not be forced to take measures that are not technically feasible or practically reasonable.

Inman-Grant made a veiled swipe at criticism of the proposals in an op-ed Australian, The response to the technological position was that standards were a step too far, leading to weak mass government surveillance.

The true dystopian future, she said, would be one where “adults fail to protect children from vile forms of torture and sexual abuse, and then allow their traumas to be freely shared with predators on a global scale.”

“This is the world we live in today,” she concluded.

Image credit: via Ideogram

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