Data is the new black: Privacy its must-have accessory

Kate Galloway

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentationProfessional

Abstract

Government. Business. Retail. Leisure. Relationships. Every aspect of our lives is awash with data and the technology to gather, aggregate, analyse, and share it. We are captivated by the convenience and the radical potential that data and data technologies bring to our lives. For the large part, however, we are less aware of the price we are paying for convenience, and the darker potential of data that is already being realised by government and global corporations. In a nation without a bill of rights, the Australian government has expanded its remit over the citizen through a suite of measures that together bear the hallmarks of a normalised state surveillance architecture. Its most recent iteration is the Access and Assistance Bill, supported by both major parties to pass through the Australian parliament in late 2018. The legislation gives the green light for security agencies not to intercept our data as such, but to require technology firms to break encryption encoded into our devices and software. Encryption lies at the heart of our data-rich society, providing the last frontier of security for all our online communication.
The passage of Australia’s encryption laws has been greeted with astonishment by the tech industry, civil society groups, and commentators globally. Yet the government’s security narrative appears to have gained traction with the community that either lacks the knowledge to understand or is complacent in the face of a fundamental erosion of our online privacy. Additionally, the implications of the new measures appear to indicate either a cynical government ploy to expand its power or a lack of appreciation of the consequences.
With reference to recent government initiatives including the encryption legislation, I argue the need for enhanced, digitally capable governance as a cornerstone of a contemporary rule of law. We need a Parliament and executive branch that understand the capacity of technology to erode the ‘breathing space’ for the citizen beyond the gaze of the State. And we need a citizenry with the capability to understand and agitate for privacy protection. Data may well be the ‘new black’. But privacy is its ‘must-have’ accessory.

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