Media Statement with Shadow Attorney-General Julian Leeser.

The Liberal Nationals Government was a world leader in standing up to the big social media companies to protect the rights and interests of Australians, while this Labor Government has shown no backbone.

We went to the election promising to legislate tough new online privacy laws, while Labor stayed silent and wouldn’t take a position either way.

As reported today, Children and Media Australia has warned parents that some of Australia’s most popular entertainment apps for children contain risky code that allows companies to gather data on children and build profiles which can follow them for life.

This follows reports that viral video social media platform, Tik Tok, has access to Australian user data in China and is engaging in insidious data harvesting, which compromises the privacy of some 7 million Australians including many younger users.

Anthony Albanese and his government need to act now. Labor cannot continue to sit on its hands, as it has done on so many issues concerning online safety and protection.

After committing to strengthen social media privacy laws, the Coalition’s proposed Online Privacy Bill provided critical protections for the privacy of Australian social media users, including our most vulnerable – our children.

The Albanese Government must investigate all regulatory options to protect the privacy of Australian social media users including legislating new online privacy laws to better protect Australians’ data and personal information.

The clock is ticking on Labor’s failure to stand up to the social media platforms.

Background

  • In addition to committing to tougher social media privacy laws, the Coalition when in government:
    – passed the Online Safety Act and established the world’s first eSafety Commissioner;
    – forced social media companies to remove cyber-bullying, cyber abuse and image based abuse;
    – led global action to make social media companies more accountable over terrorist and violent content online;
    – committed to introduce new laws to unmask anonymous trolls which were opposed by Labor; and
    – implemented the News Media Bargaining Code to force the big tech platforms to pay for Australian media content.
  • Following the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal and in recognition of the new challenges to the protection of individuals’ privacy in the digital age, in 2019 the Coalition committed to strengthen privacy protections by introducing a binding code of practice for social media and other online platforms.
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Digital Platforms July 2019 report reinforced the importance of the then government’s commitment to develop a privacy code for digital platforms and enhance penalities and enforcement measures.
  • The Coalition’s Privacy Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Online Privacy and Other Measures) Bill 2021 (Online Privacy Bill) proposed that social media and other online platforms would be required to:
    – take all reasonable steps to verify their users’ age;
    – consider the best interest of the child when handling the personal information of children including obtaining parental consent for users under the age of 16; and
    – obtain fully informed consent to use personal information; and
    – cease using or disclosing personal information upon request.
  • The Online Privacy Bill also proposed tougher penalties and enforcement powers including penalties of up to $10 million for companies which engaged in serious and repeated interferences with privacy.
  • On 18 July 2022, Internet 2.0 publicly issued a report on TikTok data harvesting that found TikTok checks device location at least once an hour, continuously requests access to contacts even if the user originally denies, maps a device’s running apps and all installed apps, and more.