Cyber Safety

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (17:54): The economics of childhood wellbeing has an increasing and deserved focus on the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping future outcomes. I commend the government for establishing an eSafety Commissioner to protect children from predatory behaviour online. Hopefully it is now common knowledge that spending time on social media can have serious impacts on the emotional development and confidence of children.

A report on social media use and children's wellbeing found that there are three possible explanations for how social media can have a negative effect on children's wellbeing: social comparisons, finite resources and cyberbullying. These three explanations that we have all heard about as adults can contribute to an overall reduction in the satisfaction children feel with their lives. It is important that as adults, and some of us parents, we do not discredit or discount this feeling of dissatisfaction as just part of growing up or just regard feeling unsatisfied as a trivial effect everybody is going to feel at some point. The effects of social media should be something we are having an open discussion about in the home and informative forums on in schools.

As a mum and MP with a public profile, the decision of when and why to post photos that feature my daughter online is something that I've thought about a lot. While the work of the eSafety Commissioner is vital, it would be remiss of us to think that our children are only being targeted by sexual offenders or societal pressures when online. Data is now the world's most valuable resource. The real business of the companies that run social media sites is data mining for third parties. Although we own the information we post, the social media company reserves the right to transmit it to third parties. For example, Facebook can and does sell information to advertisers and publishers that use Facebook for advertising.

As adults we are always operating in the 'always on' state with our phone in hand, ready to click on a link to stay on top of things. Arguably, as adults, we are able to make an educated decision on whether we click on a link, knowing full well the cybercookies that will create crumbs of personal data right for the mining. But what about our kids? A survey on the BBC's children's station found that more than three-quarters of 10- to 12-year-olds had social media accounts. Here in Australia, the legal age to have a Facebook account is 13, but, worryingly, there is evidence that this statistic might be false, with 27 per cent of minors having reported that they entered a false age to get on the site. In most cases, children using Facebook don't have the capacity to understand the effects that clicking a link can have on their privacy, nor do they know how to protect their privacy on the internet. Statistical data shows that only 55 per cent of minors know how to change their social media privacy settings and only 61 per cent know how to erase their browsing history.

The question before us, as lawmakers, is: do we resign ourselves and our children to the mercy of data mining and accept it as a normal and unavoidable part of cyberlife? With the right federal legislation, we don't have to. Spain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium have all taken action to protect the privacy of their citizens online. In Spain, personality rights and the right of protection of personal data is enshrined in their constitution and regulated by the act for civil protection of the right to honour privacy and image. Each right has its own sphere of protection. The right to honour, the right to privacy of image and the right to personal and family privacy are privacies that are guaranteed.

In 2016, the French Federal Court of Appeal struck down a Facebook term because it created such an egregious imbalance of rights in favour of Facebook at the disadvantage of the user. Possibly the most significant legislation in modern privacy security—the European Union introduced strict new data privacy and security laws in May 2018, imposing harsh fines against those who violate privacy and security standards. The legislation places the onus on data controllers to prove they are complying with the legislation and to ensure that the protection of data is considered by design and by default. The EU legislation also places restrictions on when a person's data can be processed with unambiguous consent to enter into a contract, to comply with a legal obligation, to save somebody's life, to perform a task in the public interest or if the processor has a legitimate interest that doesn't contravene another person's right to freedom. In comparison, Australia's privacy act does extend to protection against Facebook but will not grant protection of data for personal use, and we cannot enforce privacy rights against an individual.

I urge the government to consider the privacy rights of the child on the internet, especially the ability of children to consent to access to data in this bill. As Senator Elizabeth Warren said, 'If we do not have a seat at the table, we are probably on the menu.