02 October 2017

An increase in powers to access every Australian's communications via mandating ‘backdoors’ into encrypted applications has been proposed by the Australian Government.

  • Australian Govt considers access to citizens' encrypted communications
  • Concern over expanding surveillance practices
  • Australians’ privacy not protected by constitutional rights or protections
Dr Monique Mann

These moves have prompted a major QUT forum on October 5 featuring former senator Scott Ludlam, and expert speakers on encryption, international privacy law, and digital rights.

The event’s co-ordinator Dr Monique Mann, from QUT’s Crime and Justice Research Centre, said it was still unclear if Australia’s laws would require so-called ‘backdoor’ vulnerabilities to be built into messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Dr Monique Mann
Dr Monique Mann

“We haven’t seen a draft bill yet, but if the law does end up requiring this, it would mean government could use decryption keys and/or enable remote access to our devices so that communications could be intercepted ‘at the ends’,” Dr Mann said.

“The Government has already introduced mandatory metadata retention, and this data can already be accessed by law enforcement without a warrant. In response to rising surveillance, private citizens are turning to encrypted messenger services like WhatsApp and Signal.

 “These issues concern all of us, because in Australia, unlike other western democracies, we do not have a constitutional right to privacy.”

Dr Mann said police and intelligence agencies such as AFP, and ASIO already had powers to spy on citizens’ communications, without warrant or adequate independent oversight.

 “The rhetoric of national security is often used to justify widening surveillance of citizens but access to telecommunications information is mostly being used for drug investigations.”

The forum will be livestreamed on YouTube from 6pm on Thursday, October 5.

Speakers at the Attacks on Encryption event:

Surveillance politics – Scott Ludlam, former senator and Greens communications spokesperson.

Legal dimensions of the global #waronmaths – Dr Angela Daly, QUT Law Faculty and Digital Rights Watch Australia.

Government attacks on encryption and civil society coalition campaigns – Justin Clacherty, Australian Privacy Foundation, Future Wise, founder of electronic design firm Redfish.

Breaking Encryption for Dummies - Robin Doherty software design firm ThoughtWorks and digital privacy advocate Hack for Privacy and Eru Penkman, ThoughtWorks and BrisSafety.

Encryption for journalists - Dr Brenda Moon and Felix Muench, QUT Digital Media Research Centre.

The contested moral legitimacy of encryption ‘backdoors’ - Michael Wilson, QUT Justice PhD candidate.

Discussant: QLD Privacy Commissioner Philip Green

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT Media, 07 3138 2999 or

After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901 or






QUT will host Attacks on Encryption forum.

Dr Monique Mann