August 2020 Roundup

Hi friend!

There’s never a dull moment in the fight for digital rights!

Here’s your (inaugural) monthly Digital Rights Watch update, with an overview of recent digital rights issues to make sure you’re the best informed for that fancy-dress dinner party (or zoom?) discussion, as well as some updates on what our team has been busy doing.

ACCC vs Google

As you’ve probably seen in the news, the ACCC and Treasury have cooked up a new draft bill aimed at putting some advertising revenue back in the pockets of… well, the news giants. The News Media Bargaining Code ignores the forest for the trees and we’re all rather disappointed that instead of addressing the harmful data collection and use practices of platforms (and we mean ALL platforms as well as the shadowy data brokers behind them), the ACCC’s priority is to make sure that news corporations get a good juicy cut of Google and Facebook surveillance capitalism profits. We will share the submission we are making to the draft bill once it’s up, in the meantime you can tune in to this Australia at Home discussion from last week (featuring our Chair Lizzie O’Shea!) which breaks down the sticking points.

Drones to police coronavirus restrictions 

According to various media reports, police in Victoria are beginning to roll out the use of drones to monitor and enforce coronavirus restrictions. The use of drones for enforcement and surveillance brings up huge privacy and justice concerns; many of the things that drones can do are things that might ordinarily require a warrant, such as tracking someone’s movements, or looking into private spaces. It’s simply not acceptable to use this technology without appropriate safeguards in place—if at all.

Technology can be an immensely helpful tool, but we want to see it used to assist people to do the right thing, rather than as a punitive approach positioning everyone on the street as a suspect.

Read more about our perspective on the use of drones.

What Digital Rights Watch has been up to

  • On 30 July DRW Board Member Lilly Ryan hosted a lively discussion on facial recognition with ABC Journalist Ariel Bogle, Law and Technology Scholar Jake Goldenfein, and Technologist and Activist Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker. They’re all incredibly insightful people, so lucky for all of us, the recording is online.
  • Our Campaign Manager, David Paris, was in the media not once, but twice! Check out his op-ed on the Dangers of Facial Recognition in The Guardian, and his contribution to this piece on workplace surveillance on ZDNet.
  • Tune into DRW Chair Lizzie O’Shea discussing the use of drones to police people under coronavirus restrictions in Melbourne on 3AW and 7news.

Don’t miss out, mark these in your calendar!

  • PyCon – Australia’s Python Conference—is back for 2020 and this time, completely online! For python nerds and n00bs alike, the privacy and security track on Friday 4th September is chock full of important topics about—you guessed it—privacy and security. DRW Programme Director Lucie Krahulcova will be delivering a talk on Technosolutionism and Human Rights and DRW Board Member Lilly Ryan will shed the light on the psychology of shadow IT (and vampire jokes) in her talk, What We Do in the Shadows. Be sure to check out the rest of the privacy and security line up and grab a ticket (!) through the PyCon Website.
  • Lizzie O’Shea continues her regular spot on the Australia At Home fortnightly Tech Talks. Each fortnight Lizzie, Peter Lewis and Dan Stinton discuss the latest global tech developments. The next one is on Friday 4th September. You can register for free through the Australia at Home website.
  • NetThing 2020 is coming up in just over a month. With two days full of great speakers, panels and workshops on internet governance and other digital stuff, make sure you’ve saved 1-2 October in your calendar!

The DRW team is gearing up to reinvigorate our work on Digital Rights Cities. You may remember in 2019 we began the work of encouraging Australian local government authorities to embed human rights principles into their digital platforms and projects, and to come on board the UN initiative: Cities for Digital Rights.

The promise of ‘smart’ cities is a big one: increased efficiency, increased convenience, and environmental benefits. But as the push to incorporate sensors, surveillance technology and mass data collection into our everyday lives continues, smart cities also come with great risk if they do not have a human rights centred design. After all, if a city doesn’t uphold privacy, freedom of expression and democracy—it’s just not that smart. 

We believe that local councils have a huge opportunity to play a fundamental role in how our rights are upheld on a community level. We are excited to direct more energy into this campaign to turn smart cities into digital rights cities—watch this space!

Add your voice to our campaign against facial recognition for mass surveillance

or Donate to Digital Rights Watch to support our work

One last thing – Digital rights for the whole family

With many families continuing to study and work from home, kids are spending even more time online than before. That’s cool—we love the internet too! But now is a great time to have that chat with the younger members of your family about privacy and security online to keep them safe, happy, and watching stupid (but harmless) videos online.

Not sure where to start? This Digital Defenders booklet (we recommend colour printing) is designed for kids aged 10-14 to help them understand and protect their privacy online.

Alternatively, we’ve kicked up an Instagram presence where we break down digital rights issues into small appetizer-sized bites (wow, so digestible!), so please share us with the Instagram addicts in your life.

Thanks for being with us.

Talk soon!

Sam, Dave, Lucie and your whole DRW team.