Under a new Online Privacy code announced on Monday, Australians under the age of 16 could be required to have their parent or guardian sign off on their use of social media platforms – including Reddit and even Zoom. The proposed law seeks to protect kids from social media companies and any platform that allows chatting.
The Privacy Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Online Privacy and Other Measures) Bill 2021 (the Online Privacy Bill) will introduce a binding Online Privacy code for social media sites (and others, too). It builds on the 33-year-old Privacy Act and would also introduce penalties and enforcement measures for failure to comply.
Introducing A New Online Privacy Code
Under the proposal, the Privacy Act will be expanded through the introduction of an Online Privacy code. The code would apply to social media services, data brokerage services and large online platforms.
By definition, social media services include the obvious Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but also dating apps like Bumble and Tinder, Reddit, OnlyFans, messaging/video services such as WhatsApp and Zoom and gaming platforms that allow chat functions.
Examples of data brokerage services include Quantium, Acxiom, Experian and Nielsen Corporation.
And to qualify as a ‘large online platform’ they must have over 2.5 million users in Australia (so the likes of Amazon.com.au).
What Will The Online Privacy Code Entail?
The Online Privacy code will act as an expansion of the Privacy Act and a way to apply what’s known as the Australian Privacy Principals (APPs) to these other platforms.
The code would make it mandatory for social media platforms to verify someone’s age. This means if they are under the age of 16, parental or guardian consent must be obtained before collecting, using or disclosing any personal information.
The Online Privacy code will also require organisations to not use or disclose an individual’s personal information if that individual asks for it to not be shared.
The code will either be developed by industry or by the commissioner (this will be determined after consultation) but platforms or sites will need to register.
Enforcement And Penalties Under The Code
The proposed Bill will increase the maximum civil penalty for a serious and/or repeated interference with privacy and create a new infringement notice (and criminal penalty) for failing to cooperate (and continual failure to comply) with the Australian government-appointed commissioner and the law
The maximum civil penalty for serious and repeated interferences with privacy will be 2,400 penalty units ($532,800 on current penalty unit values) for an individual and for an organisation, the maximum penalty will increase to either $10 million or 10 per cent of their annual turnover in Australia.
A Bit Of History
The government has been undertaking a review of the Privacy Act for a year now. In July, it revealed work on the Act had resulted in the exploration of further legislative instruments targeted towards social media companies operating in Australia.
This work, although under the Privacy Act, is separate and we can still expect further amendments to the Act that has been in place since 1988 and isn’t exactly up to par for a TikTok and OnlyFans world.
Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said this legislation would ensure Australians’ privacy would be treated more carefully and transparently by online platforms such as social media companies.
“We know that Australians are wary about what personal information they give over to large tech companies. We are ensuring their data and privacy will protected and handled with care. Our draft legislations means that these companies will be punished heavily if they don’t meet that standard,” she said.
Once submissions to the code are received, further consultation will be done before a Bill is (likely) rammed through Parliament.