Can police force you to unlock your social accounts? No, says privacy lawyer

A New Zealand privacy lawyer says people have the right to resist unlocking their social media accounts for police, as Australia considers giving their police more power to force the networks themselves to hand over your data.

Rick Shera's comments to TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme come after Australia's Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor proposed legislation which would bring social media services like Facebook, Whatsapp and others under the current surveillance measures required by police.

The issue revolves around encryption - where police in Australia and New Zealand can already access phone and text data, encrypted services like social media networks require verification and permission from the user, or they remain encrypted.

Mr Shera said telecommunications providers in New Zealand are required to make their services "interceptable" by the government for law enforcement purposes.

Currently, if police ask a person to provide access to their encrypted accounts, those people "have the right to resist that if you feel it's going to incriminate you," Mr Shera said.

The proposed Australian legislation would carry stiff fines of up to AU$10m (NZ$11.02m) for networks who refuse to provide data about users - or direct access to its systems.

Mr Shera said there has been a lot of concern that requiring social media networks to be "interceptable" could weaken them, in terms of making them more accessible to malicious access or hacking.

However, as the Australian proposal currently stands, it would not require networks to create a so-called "back door" into their networks, which has pleased cyber security analysts across the Tasman.

Nigel Phair, director of NSW Canberra Cyber, told "it's reassuring they're not talking back doors.

"That would not be good for society."

However, Mr Phair said governments, including the Australian government, have long had trouble telling huge companies like Facebook what to do.

"You can put a fine on it all you like, but if these companies are domiciled off in another country it will be very difficult to enforce their compliance," Mr Phair said.

Rick Shera says people have the right not to incriminate themselves, as Australia looks at give police more surveillance power over social media. Source: Breakfast