Defending your right to control your personal information

News and Updates

The federal government has announced a plan to increase the sharing of citizen data across the public sector.

This would include data sitting with agencies such as Centrelink, the Australian Tax Office, the Department of Home Affairs, the Bureau of Statistics and potentially other external “accredited” parties such as universities and businesses.

The draft Data Availability and Transparency Bill released today will not fix ongoing problems in public administration. It won’t solve many problems in public health. It is a worrying shift to a post-privacy society.

It’s a matter of arrogance, rather than effectiveness. It highlights deficiencies in Australian law that need fixing.

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Regulatory arbitrage and transnational surveillance: Australia’s extraterritorial assistance to access encrypted communications

This article examines developments regarding encryption law and policy within ‘Five Eyes’ (FVEY) countries by focussing on the recently enacted Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 (Cth) in Australia. The legislation is significant both domestically and internationally because of its extraterritorial reach, allowing the development of new ways for Australian law enforcement and security agencies to access encrypted telecommunications via transnational designated communications providers, and allowing for Australian authorities to assist foreign counterparts in both enforcing and potentially circumventing their domestic laws. We argue that Australia is the ‘weak link’ in the FVEY alliance as – unlike other FVEY members – has no comprehensive enforceable human rights protections. Given this, there is a possibility for regulatory arbitrage in exploiting these new surveillance powers to undermine encryption via Australia.

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Recent news that Chinese company Zhenhua Data is profiling more than 35,000 Australians isn’t a surprise to people with an interest in privacy, security and social networks. We need to think critically about this, knowing we can do something to prevent it from happening again.

The company operates under Chinese law and doesn’t appear to have a presence in Australia. That means we can’t shut it down or penalise it for a breach of our law. Also, Beijing is unlikely to respond to expressions of outrage from Australia or condemnation by our government – especially amid recent sabre-rattling.

Zhenhua is reported to have data on more than 35,000 Australians – a list saturated by political leaders and prominent figures. Names, birthdays, addresses, marital status, photographs, political associations, relatives and social media account details are among the information extracted.

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CCTV cameras mounted on vans have recently been seen in public parks around Melbourne, ostensibly to nab anyone breaking lockdown rules. They are part of a joint initiative between several Melbourne councils, Victoria Police and the Commonwealth government.

Coming on the back of Victorian police arresting and charging a number of people for inciting others to break bans on public gatherings by protesting in the streets, there is likely to be widespread resentment to the presence of these mobile surveillance units.

Many people are already claiming the Victorian government has once again over-stepped the mark in its aggressive approach to suppressing COVID-19.

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Throughout our lifetimes we consume, collate, curate, host and produce a staggering quantity of data – some by our own hand, some by others on our behalf, and some without our knowledge or consent.

Collectively, our “digital footprints” represent who we are and who we were. Our digital legacies are immortal and can impact those we leave behind.

Many of us take steps to secure our privacy while we’re alive, but there’s mounting evidence that we should be equally concerned about the privacy and security risks of our “data after death”.

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Android handsets are tracking where users are, and sending that information to Google, even if ­location history settings are turned off and the incognito privacy feature is turned on.

Tests conducted by The Australian in Sydney — in which information being sent to Google was duplicated and analysed — show the technology giant tracks the phone’s movement even when those settings, ostensibly meant to protect the privacy of users, are ­activated.

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