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Google, Facebook pressured to decrypt data by new Australian law

The country's prime minister says the law will help catch terrorists, pedophiles and drug traffickers.

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The bill will go into effect in November.

NurPhoto

The Australian government is implementing laws that'll pressure tech giants like Facebook and Google to decrypt messages for terrorist and criminal investigators, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Friday, reports the ABC

Investigators would ask for assistance from Apple, Facebook, Google and others in cases regarding terrorism, pedophile rings and drug trafficking. 

"We've got a real problem in that the new law enforcement agencies are increasingly unable to find out what terrorists and drug traffickers and pedophile rings are up to because of the very high levels of encryption," Turnbull said to reporters. 

"Where we can compel it, we will," he added, "but we will need the cooperation from the tech companies."

That may be easier said than done. Apple famously last year had a standoff with the FBI, which had asked the company to unlock an iPhone belonging to a San Bernardino shooter. Facebook is also dubious, saying in a statement to the publication that "weakening encrypted systems for them [the police] would mean weakening it for everyone."

Meanwhile, a Google spokesperson said the company has "always supported the work of law enforcement and intelligence agencies by promptly providing data in response to valid legal process and emergency disclosure requests."

The new laws, which the AP reports will be introduced in November, were compared by Attorney-General George Brandis to Britain's Investigatory Powers Act. That bill was passed late last year but which some in the country say gives the government too much surveillance power

Facebook was contacted for comment but did not immediately respond.