Under the Defence Trade Control Act (DTCA), Australians could face up to ten years in prison for teaching encryption. Criminal charges will go into effect next year. The new legislation will make it illegal for Australians to teach or provide information on encryption without having a permit.
Australia’s Department of Defence originally passed the Defence Trade Control Act on November 13, 2012. However, amendments were made to the DTCA and passed into law just last month in April. There is a 12-month implementation period, so Australians are safe for now.
The purpose of this law is to control the transfer of defense and strategic goods technologies. The Australian government says it wants “to strengthen Australia’s export controls, and to stop technology that can be used in conventional and weapons of mass destruction from getting into the wrong hands…”
The Defense and Strategic Goods List (DSGL) goes hand in hand with the Defense Trade Control Act. The DTCA prohibits anyone without a permit from supplying “DSGL technology” to anyone outside of Australia. Since encryption falls within these classifications, any citizen of Australia who shares information on encryption with a person outside the country could face criminal charges.
Teachers at schools or universities will have to be approved to teach encryption if students are outside of Australia. This presents unique challenges in regards to online education and international students. Researchers and those who publish information on encryption will also be affected. The DTCA could also impact open source privacy software and the computer security industry.
It is also important to consider the implications of this law for digital currencies such as Bitcoin. Advanced encryption techniques are at the heart of Bitcoin and digital currency. In cryptography, encryption is one of the primary techniques that gives digital currency users anonymity.
The Defence Trade Control Act is not the only piece of legislation threatening change to Australia’s Bitcoin landscape. However, what does it mean for the future? The progress and development of digital currency and open source projects rely on a constant free flow of information, shared among people worldwide. Due to the nature of sharing information, anyone in the world could be affected by the restrictions of the DTCA, not just Australians.
Is this new Australian law an act of censorship or the government’s way of protecting “national defense”? Please give your comments!
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