May 2021 Roundup

Greetings from… inside our homes. With the majority of our team back in lockdown in Victoria, we have been keeping an eye on coronavirus updates. If you registered to attend the Coded Bias movie screening, you should have received a refund. If you wanted to come but missed a spot—good news! We will be rescheduling the event once life returns to something that resembles ‘normal’.

To all our supporters in Victoria: we hope you are faring okay under the stress of another lockdown. To our interstate supporters: stay safe!

In other news, we’ve been busy behind the scenes and we are thrilled to announce our next project:

The internet has tremendous power to connect and empower individuals, but as centers of power online grow larger they become less affable to individual users and less responsive to their needs.

Can we rebalance the internet economy?

This year we will be hosting four town-hall style discussions in Melbourne, bringing together representatives from digital platforms and local creators to discuss the ways in which the internet is great—and where it could be doing better. Our four themes are:


…. and they represent writers, film makers, storytellers, poets, vloggers, bloggers, artists and creatives, activists, community leaders, sex workers, thinkers and overall everyone who relies on the internet to do their work.

Click here to learn more about the project and if you’re in Melbourne, mark your calendars for the first event of the series: EXHIBIT which we will be hosting on July 29th.

UN inquiry on the right to privacy in the digital age

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is putting together a report on “the rights to privacy in the digital age” so we took the opportunity to put in a submission highlighting Australia’s own experiences with government use of technology. 

We highlighted the state of privacy in Australia, with particular focus on:

  • Our lack of a rights-based framework and the current pitfalls of the privacy law landscape in Australia,
  • The impact of automated systems on human rights with a special focus on robodebt, 
  • Surveillance and privacy in the workplace.

The right to privacy remains one of the most critical parts of the international human rights framework in the digital age, so we are looking forward to the results of the inquiry. For more, you can read our full submission here.

ABC’s move to mandatory logins

You may have seen the announcement that ABC intends to introduce compulsory logins to access iView. This was met with outcry from many in the privacy space, notedly with cryptographer and privacy advocate Vanessa Teague drafting a letter to the ABC board laying out the concerns with a public broadcaster adopting a data extractive model in order to ‘personalise’ the experience. Salinger Privacy has also highlighted the privacy risks to individuals and how the move could potentially breach the Australian Privacy Principles. 

We don’t need the ABC to behave like commercial data-hungry streaming platforms, we need them to continue to provide high quality publicly funded journalism. Digital Rights Watch does not support the intention to require people to create an account to access ABC content. If you want to voice your opinion, we urge you to write to the ABC. Vanessa has made her letter open as a template and ready for your use!

What Digital Rights Watch has been up to over the past month…

  • If you’ve missed any of the fortnightly Tech Talks, you can always watch them back! Last week Lizzie, Peter and special guest, Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow, discussed the AHRC’s final report on Technology and Human Rights. There was a particular focus on AI and facial recognition surveillance. Watch it back here.
  • Lizzie also joined The Guardian’s Dan Stinton and Professor Jeff Jarvis to discuss the News Media Bargaining Code, hosted by the University of Melbourne. Watch it back here. 
  • Our Board member, Lilly Ryan, joined Melbourne Activity Legal Support to share her insights into activism, digital security and surveillance as part of Melbourne Law Week.
  • If you missed out on attending an in-person guided tour through the streets of Melbourne CBD, you can still do the tour with our audio-guide and accompanying print out. For those in other states, why not take a virtual trip to Melbourne—the surveillance technologies used here are not unique, and there’s plenty to learn about public space surveillance regardless of where you are. Visit the Surveillance Track website here.

Don’t miss out—mark these upcoming events in your calendar!

  • It’s RightsCon season! We hope you grabbed a ticket, because the lineup looks excellent! If you have registered, we’d love to see you at our session on Tuesday 8th of June at 2pm AEST/12pm AWST. Our session is: Rebalancing the Internet Economy: A closer look at Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the RightsCon program, we’ve collected a list of sessions we’re excited to attend. Check them out here.
  • The Ada Lovelace Institute is hosting an event on 10 June at 10:30pm AEST to consider the international developments in regulating biometric technologies—with a particular focus on facial recognition technology. Register here.  
  • PyConAU will be back in September. We’ve got our eyes on the privacy and security track in particular, brought to us by Snakeoil Academy. For those with the gift of the gab, be sure to get your talk proposals in by 10 June! 
  • The Asia Pacific region Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) is also calling for session proposals for their program in late September. Proposals are due by 22 June
  • Save the date for our EXHIBIT event on 29th July in Melbourne. Registration soon!

It’s the end of the financial year and there’s no better time to donate and support the organisations you love! The support of our wonderful recurring donors keeps the lights on and helps us deliver ad hoc responses to all those truly shite government proposals. We can’t use any of our project funding for that kind of work, so if you like our explainers, our hot takes in the press, and our appearances in front of government committees then please consider a one-time or recurring donation to support our work!

And if that’s not doable right now then don’t despair! You can support us by sharing our website and articles, following us on social media (Twitter and Instagram mostly), or telling strangers on the street that they should subscribe to this newsletter.