Govt urged to take cyber spying laws further and stop teenage data snooping, says Reset Australia

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Proposed privacy laws which prohibit the collection of minor’s data by Big Tech should be extended to all teenagers under 18 to stop granular targeting advertising and data harvesting of Australian kids, says Reset Australia.

Reset Australia, the local affiliate of a global initiative working to counter digital threats to society, is advocating for a data code for children as part of the federal government’s privacy review. If adopted, this would see social media giants and technology compelled to be designed with the interests of children and teenagers in mind. It would include greater data controls for young people and limit targeted commercial advertising.

“Social media was never designed to factor in child protection,” said Chris Cooper, executive director of Reset Australia. “We need some ground rules to protect how young people’s data is collected and used, especially given we don’t know the long term ramifications of unchecked data harvesting.”

“While we can look to the US’s lead we should also closely look at what other countries have already implemented, such as the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code, and Ireland’s proposed Fundamentals for a Child-Oriented Approach to Data Processing.”

Australia is reportedly considering following the US which requires parental consent before cyber giants can collect personal information on under 13-year-olds. This will mean children as young as 14 could still be targeted with inappropriate content and lose control of their personal information before they can meaningfully consent to it being harvested.

“We know that Big Tech treats children’s data in the same way as adults,” said Mr Cooper. “So we need to extend protections to all kids and teens, not just those under 13.”

In a recent experiment Reset Australia found Facebook allowed advertisers to target teenage profiles based on a range of questionable interests - from smoking, gambling, and alcohol to extreme weight loss and dating status.

Facebook greenlit content targeted at teenagers which included vaping, cocktail recipes, political extremism and Q-Anon references, extreme weight loss, and adult dating. Reset Australia never published these ads

“The highly targeted nature of this advertising is different to incidental viewing of advertising. A school bus with a beer ad on the side of it can’t pick a kid interested in underage drinking and then follow them throughout their day. But a targeted, granular ad will be in their phone, monitoring their activities and ready to target them every time they use social media.

“If we want to stop our children’s vulnerabilities being exploited we need to tackle the root of the problem - unchecked data harvesting. We need to compel these platforms to design their services with the interests of children at the core.”

More comment: Chris Cooper 0403 353 621

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