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Investigatory Powers, FBI and Australian cryptologists

News round-up

Investigatory Powers Bill

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is set to scrutinise the UK government's plans for bulk data collection and retention at an emergency hearing on 12 April.

Its intervention was demanded by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales to help decide whether existing government spying measures are incompatible with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Depending on the outcome of the hearing, the ECJ could scupper the government's plans to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill into law.

The Court of Appeal asked the ECJ to examine a case brought by MPs Tom Watson and David Davis and their co-claimants, Peter Brice and Geoffrey Lewis, against Home Secretary Theresa May's Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA).

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FBI unlocks gunman's iPhone

The bureau wanted the smartphone giant Apple to unlock an iPhone 5c owned by terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook .

But the company feared agreeing to the request could open a back door which allows hackers free access to smartphones owned by millions of people.

Federal prosecutors told a judge in a new court filing they have successfully accessed data on an iPhone belonging to Farook.

The department "no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc.," the court filing states.

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Australian cryptologists worried by exports law

Researchers in Australia are concerned that an unusually restrictive 'export controls' law that comes into force in April could constrain their academic freedom.

The law, called the Defence Trade Controls Act, will require academics who are working on applied research that is classified as ‘dual-use’ — that which may have both military and non-military applications — to apply for a permit from Australia’s Department of Defence before they can write to colleagues overseas about their work. The dual-use list includes fields from electronics to microorganisms research. By 2 April, which marks the end of a one-year grace period since the act was passed, affected academics risk jail terms or fines if they communicate their research outside Australia without seeking a permit.

Researchers working in cryptology, artificial intelligence and microbiology have all said they are worried about the impacts of the legislation.

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