The government’s quest for access to encrypted data has raised thorny questions for companies and citizens. 

What would make you more edgy: a drone hovering outside your loungeroom window or a cyber snoop hoovering up your emails and texts? London to a brick it’s the drone, and there’s a good reason why.

In a recent study, a visible threat – in the form of an artificial predator on a computer screen – was more likely to trigger the “fight or flight” brain regions linked to fear than was a known predator that stayed out of sight. 

Just common sense, perhaps. But if a federal cybersecurity bill currently in draft form is passed into law, the threat posed to privacy, freedom of speech and the security of personal communications across the internet has a chorus of voices suggesting fear should be front and centre when it comes to these new, hidden investigative powers.

“It really is very dangerous and it really does threaten the safe and proper operating of the internet,” says Tom Sulston, a software consultant and director of Australian lobby group Digital Rights Watch.

“It represents a gross overreach of government power into the digital space. It is a huge erosion of individuals’ ability to communicate privately, and for companies’ and software development organisations’ ability to make good secure systems. This bill is a real threat to the underpinnings of a functioning digital society,” he says.

These are big calls, so what is stirring up all the hoopla?

Read the full article in the Age newspaper here