Tuesday, 26 March 2019 16:48

Christchurch fallout: Govt says bigger fines for privacy breaches Featured

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Christchurch fallout: Govt says bigger fines for privacy breaches Pixabay

The Federal Government will fine social media and online platforms operating in the country $10 million for serious breaches of the Privacy Act, or thrice the value of any benefit derived from the breach.

"This penalty and enforcement regime will be backed by legislative amendments which will result in a code for social media and online platforms which trade in personal information," Attorney-General Christian Porter said.

A joint statement on Tuesday, from Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Porter said legislation would be drafted for consultation in the second half of 2019.

Regarding the fines, the two ministers said a third option would be to fine the offending company 10% of its annual domestic turnover, with the biggest amount to be charged.

Porter also said: "The draft legislation will also incorporate any relevant findings of the current Digital Platforms inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which is due to issue its final report in June 2019."

The government's reaction comes in the wake of events in Christchurch on 15 March when a white supremacist gunman killed 50 Muslim worshippers in a mosque and live-streamed the shooting on Facebook. The social media giant removed the video after more than an hour and YouTube also struggled to remove clips of the killing.

Porter and Fifield said the new fines would be imposed under the Privacy Act.

Other measures they announced were:

  • Giving the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner with new infringement notice powers backed by new penalties of up to $63,000 for bodies corporate and $12,600 for individuals for failure to cooperate with efforts to resolve minor breaches;
  • Expanding other options available to the OAIC to ensure breaches are addressed through third-party reviews, and/or publish prominent notices about specific breaches and ensure those directly affected are advised;
  • Requiring social media and online platforms to stop using or disclosing an individual’s personal information upon request; and
  • Introducing specific rules to protect the personal information of children and other vulnerable groups.

"Existing protections and penalties for misuse of Australians’ personal information under the Privacy Act fall short of community expectations, particularly as a result of the explosion in major social media and online platforms that trade in personal information over the past decade," Porter said.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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