Australia Proposes New Online Privacy Bill to Expand Privacy Act

The Australian federal government has released a draft of a new bill called the Online Privacy Bill. The bill aims to improve the protection of privacy with new measures and heavier penalties. If passed, it will expand the country’s Privacy Act.

Currently, the Privacy Act only allows for two types of binding privacy codes—the Australian Privacy Principle and credit reporting. The expansion will enable the government to create a third kind aimed at three types of organizations in particular.

The new kind will be applicable to social media, data brokers, and “large online platforms.” The latter include services like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Spotify.

Social media and adjacent platforms like Reddit and gaming networks will involve additional measures. They must verify the age of those under 16 and gain the consent of guardians before collecting, using, or disclosing information.

They must also prioritize the best interest of the child, which is a more ambiguous requirement.

A requirement that applies to all three categories is that users should be able to request for their information not to be used. Fines for violation can either be 10% of an organization’s Australian turnover or AU$10 million.

This is a huge increase from the current AU$2.22 million maximum fine.

Getting a Lid on It

The Australian government singled out social media because of the unique dangers it presents to children. Unlike with the other two categories—data brokers and large platforms—it involves direct contact between users.

Moreover, social media platforms are now notorious for the way in which they gather data for targeted advertising.

Data brokers most often supply information to background check services and people search sites. While people’s data is utilized, it’s not being used “on” them—it is removed from them for the most part.

Interestingly, the expansion allows people to ban the usage but not to request the removal of their data. Citizen’s can’t demand a removal of their data. No such right exists in Austrailian law.

Australia is working to strengthen internet privacy like many other countries but is charting a more “custodial” course. It appears to be emphasizing control over data rather than pushing for individual freedoms of choice about the actual information collection and processing.

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Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.

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