October 2021 Roundup

It’s the end of October which means it’s Halloween season for those who celebrate and oh has it been a positively spooky month for digital rights!

Privacy Act review is finally here! So is everything else actually.

On Monday, our corner of the internet lit up with four major pieces of tech regulation. They were (in no order of preference, trust us):

Now of course we need to protect children online, but in an attempt to differentiate protections between children and adults online, the draft Online Privacy Bill includes a requirement for social media companies to implement age verification to access their platforms. We’ve already written about the troubles with age-verification, but it strikes us as alarming that a bill which seeks to protect privacy is suggesting a measure which introduces an additional privacy and security risk. We need robust privacy protections that are fit for purpose in our connected world for everyone, not just people under 18. 

You can find comments from us in Crikey, InnovationAus, The New Daily and Business Insider, and perhaps you caught us on ABC Radio and 2CC in Canberra! 

It will take us some time to work through the details of these, but you can expect to see more explainers, submissions, and commentary around all of this in the months to come!

Australia’s Digital Identity legislation rolls on…

October 27 marked the end of the third phase of consultation for the Australian Digital Identity legislation. We received quite a few messages from people who are concerned about this area, and we get it, the government has given us no reason to feel calm and reassured that rights will be protected.

The draft Trusted Digital Identity Bill brings together two sets of rules: the Trusted Digital Identity Framework accreditation scheme (which already exists) and the Trusted Digital Identity rules. There are four types of accreditation, a yet-to-be-decided Oversight Authority, and a range of technical specs. If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is.

We made a submission to Phase 2 of the consultations. Happily, the current draft includes a range of additional privacy protections that go beyond what is included in the Privacy Act (the same one that’s currently under review). But of course, there are still issues, like a huge carveout for law enforcement access to data. You can check out our submission on the current draft here to read more and see what we’ve recommended.

COVID-19 tracking apps require stronger protections

We teamed up with the Human Rights Law Centre to write a joint letter to the federal and state health ministers, calling for strong privacy protections for home quarantine apps—especially with regard to the use of facial recognition technology and the collection and use of people’s biometric data.  
You can read our statement and the full letter here. It was also featured in The Guardian, The Canberra Times, and InnovationAus.

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

  • We teamed up with Electronic Frontiers Australia to host an online workshop on how to write your own policy submission. If you’ve ever been interested in participating in a public consultation but you’re not sure where to start—this is it! Check it out here
  • We also teamed up with the Oxen Privacy Tech Foundation for a live Q&A for Global Encryption Day on 21 October. We answered a range of questions around encryption, law enforcement access, and why it is essential to protect. Watch it back here.
  • We hosted IMAGINE – an event on how writers, storytellers and creatives use digital platforms, and how we might rebalance the power dynamics. Watch it back here. 
  • Sam spoke with 3CR Thursday Breakfast about the Basic Online Safety Expectations, how it fits into the Online Safety Act, why we’re concerned, and why people should make a submission by 12 November. 
  • Lucie joined the Global Justice Data team on their podcast: Resist and Reboot, to discuss local digital governance and how uplifting digital rights at the local level can inspire global change.
  • Been keeping up to date with Bad Art Friend? Lizzie spoke with ABC Everyday about legal access to your group chat.
  • Sam spoke with The Age about security and privacy issues with online learning in response to strangers joining virtual classrooms.  
  • Lizzie joined the folks at National Security Podcast to unpack Australia’s electronic surveillance laws.
  • Tech Talk got a facelift! The rebranded fortnightly discussion featuring Lizzie O’Shea on all-things technology and politics is now Burning Platforms. You can watch the latest episodes about online privacy and platforms vs nation-states on the Centre for Responsible Technology’s YouTube channel, alongside all the other episodes.
  • Sam penned an article, ‘Online anonymity is really important, actually’ for Overland, in response to comments from politicians threatening to undermine it.

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

  • Our next event of our project to Rebalance the Internet Economy is coming up in late November! This time we are focusing on activists, organisers and community leaders who use digital platforms to build social movements. We will be sending out an invitation to register soon! 
  • It’s not too late to register to attend NetThing on 4-5 November. If you want to hear from tech experts on the latest regulatory challenges, this is the place to be. 
  • Don’t forget to register for Burning Platforms to keep up to date on all the latest technology, law and human rights news. You can register for the next one (October 8th) or watch back the ones you’ve missed here. Audiophiles never fear, you can also listen to the podcast on spotify
  • The ARC Center for Automated Decision Making and Society is hosting an exciting event on 17 November, exploring race and ethnicity in automated decision making, with an excellent lineup of speakers, including the author of Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Noble. Details and registration here
  • Registrations are open for FWD+Organise on 1-2 December, hosted by Progressive Tech Network, all about skill sharing between community organisers and digital campaigners.
  • We’re already looking forward to MozFest for a unique festival: part art, part tech, part society. Save the date for March 7-11 2022. 
  • Mark your calendars! RightsCon is the world’s leading summit on human rights in the digital age, and it will be coming back VIRTUALLY 6-10 June 2022! We will be there.