A new report on the state of digital rights in Australia has called for the repeal of the country’s mandatory data retention legislation and new laws to protect individuals’ privacy.
The publication of the State of Digital rights report was coordinated by Digital Rights Watch and endorsed by a range of human rights organisations, including the Australian Privacy Foundation, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Amnesty International Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre, Liberty Victoria, the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, and Save the Children Australia.
It includes more than two-dozen key recommendations, including an end to the data retention scheme.
“The extensive, intrusive nature of the current data collection regime, in combination with a lack of transparency over which bodies are able to access it and for what purposes, risks creating a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Australia and violates the right to privacy,” Lizzie O’Shea argues in a chapter on the metadata regime. Australia’s data retention scheme began in October 2015.
One potential measure to boost the privacy protections for Australians could be the creation of a similar body to the European Data Protection Authorities that operate in Denmark and Norway, the report says.
Privacy law should be reformed through the introduction a Commonwealth statutory civil cause of action for serious invasions of privacy, including digital privacy, as recommended in 2014 by the Australian Law Reform Commission, the report argues.
The report also calls for the government to back away from any move to weaken encryption. The government has said it will introduce legislation to boost the ability of law enforcement agencies to access to communications using encrypted services.
The government previously indicated in January that it anticipated the introduction of a bill in the first quarter of 2018, but it has yet to release any proposed legislation or offer any significant detail on how any new law would function.
Other recommendations cover Australian copyright law, the operation of Australia’s intelligence agencies, and the protection of children online.
“Digital rights are inherent human rights,” said Digital Rights Watch chair Tim Singleton Norton. “And just as other human rights are far from inalienable, digital rights must be fought for, solidified into social normality and ultimately protected and upheld if we are to maintain our humanity in digital spaces.”