The world's largest social media and search companies have expressed serious concern over a complicated bill that would give Australian intelligence agencies new powers to demand assistance deciphering private messages.
The bill would grant police and espionage agencies like ASIO the power to request technology companies to voluntarily provide access to private communications, as long as they have an order.
The attorney general would also obtain the power to force companies to "build a new capacity" to help investigators with their investigations, but that request can not force the company to break the encryption.
It could include a tool to track criminals with GPS or to create a secret profile for intelligence officers.
In a joint presentation to the internal affairs department, a group representing Amazon, Facebook, Google, Oath and Twitter raised serious concerns with the scope of the bill and the lack of oversight.
The companies argue that the requirement to help decipher unencrypted messages can still "require the provider to identify a weakness in the security of the data in their systems or technology and make that weakness known to those agencies."
"While [we] we appreciate the challenges facing the application of the law, we have concerns with the bill, which, contrary to its stated objective, can serve to really undermine public safety by facilitating the bad actors commit crimes against individuals, organizations or communities " says submission.
Cooperating closely with law enforcement to help violate private communications could "erode consumer confidence" and possibly "introduce weaknesses that malicious actors could exploit."
The laws are designed to avoid situations like the San Bernardino terrorism investigation in the United States, where Apple resisted pressure from the FBI to break a suspect's phone.
The submission argues that laws should be limited with more judicial oversight and used only on the worst suspects of being criminal.
"The bill proposes extraordinary powers of unprecedented scope, and its exercise must be limited to the fight against serious crimes that represent a serious threat to human life or security."
The companies, which have billions of customers around the world, also expressed concern about how laws will be applied across borders.
The Attorney General's assistance orders could "require service providers to take measures that violate the laws of other countries," the document warns.
"This potentially puts service providers in an impossible situation and can also endanger Australian national security if other governments introduce similar provisions."
Green Senator Jordan Steele-John welcomed criticism from the industry.
"Creating technological vulnerabilities to expand the scope of surveillance of the Five Eyes network will ultimately leave us all more vulnerable to criminal activity," said Senator Steele-John, referring to the intelligence exchange agreement with the United States and other US allies. speaks English
"Given that some of the biggest data breaches in recent years have come from government agencies, the prospect of this legislation does not make me feel more secure," he said.
"This is a massive government overload and something we should all be extremely worried about." It mocks our right to privacy, leaves us more vulnerable to cyber espionage and permanently weakens existing protections that we all depend on to be safe and secure online. "
The bill proposes extraordinary powers of unprecedented scope.
The bills, which have not yet been submitted to parliament, do not allow agencies to force companies to break the encryption or create a so-called "back door," a weakness in the code that only law enforcement can use.
In announcing the laws, then-cyber security minister Angus Taylor told SBS News he wanted to see "more encryption, not less" to keep Australians safe from cybercrime.
But the laws could offer agencies a variety of ways to decrypt encrypted communications without lifting the encryption itself.
If an agent could see what was on the screen of a suspect's phone, for example, the level of encryption that protects the messages would be irrelevant.
"One way is through the application, the other way is through the device, the other way is through the networks themselves," Taylor told SBS News at the time.
"There are many different ways to do this."
The government must still respond to the presentation of the companies.