Making News
Keep your hands off my data, say Aussie teens
by Mornington Peninsula Magazine

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Australian teens say they want to be able to delete their online profiles, are being targeted with highly specific ads that make them uncomfortable, and are largely uninformed about which platforms have access to their private data, according to a new poll. Almost three-quarters of surveyed teens had been recommended content that made them feel uncomfortable, and almost 60 per cent were unsure with whom their personal details were being shared.

The May poll of 400 Australians aged 16-17 was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Reset Australia ahead of the Federal Government’s review of the Privacy Act. Key findings include:
• 81 per cent of surveyed teenagers want the ‘right to delete’ so they can easily request that their personal data be deleted;
• 58 per cent considered themselves uninformed about when and who their personal data is being shared with;
• 82 per cent had seen ads so personally targeted that they felt uncomfortable;
• 72 per cent had been recommended content that made them feel uncomfortable;
• 77 per cent want privacy settings to be set to the most private options by default for people under 18;
• 71 per cent want rules restricting sticky design techniques that use their data to keep them using a product or service for longer;
• 79 per cent want to be able to access and know what data is held about them through easy mechanisms; and,
• 79 per cent want ‘data minimisation’ rules, or to limit the amount of data that can be collected to only that which is really necessary.

“Young Australians want to see an end to Big Tech’s unfettered use of their most private and intimate data,” said Reset Australia executive director Chris Cooper. “Young people understand perhaps better than most that their data is used to keep them online for longer or target them with hyper-specific, inappropriate, or harmful content. They want to see meaningful regulation of Big Tech so they can have greater control over their privacy, including the freedom to truly delete social media profiles and reclaim their data.”

Reset Australia, which “advocates against digital threats to democracy”, is calling on the government to use its review as an opportunity to adopt a children’s data code similar to those used in the UK and Ireland. Such a code has been backed by prominent child advocacy organisations, including UNICEF Australia, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, and ReachOut. Reset Australia wants the code to ensure that children and parents have “meaningfully consented” to their data being used, and that only absolutely necessary data would be collected. It is also calling for the code to be enforced by a strong and enabled regulation with the power to issue criminal sanctions for extreme breaches.

“Social media was never designed to factor in children’s rights,” Mr Cooper said. “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. This needs to be a rigorous code so that children can have meaningful protection.”

Child Wise managing director Natalie Siegel-Brown said the poll showed young people want clearer data rights and greater control over what personal information is online. “Children’s data is now collected from birth, yet there are no systems in place to protect their online profile, nor is there any expectation that social media giants will implement systems to keep children’s information safe. The Reset Australia report finds that young people are confused about what they’re consenting to when it comes to how their data is used. Many adults would struggle to understand the terms and conditions they are signing up to, so how can children be expected to understand what will happen with the information they put online? Making terms and conditions easier to understand as well as introducing data minimisation is an obvious place to start to improve data rights.

“There is a clear need for a focus on algorithms too, which are created and trained using children’s data,” Ms Siegel-Brown said. “We need to make sure that these algorithms are not used to target and retarget young people with harmful content. Children’s hopes, dreams, and fears are among the data that is harvested by digital platforms. This data is used by algorithms to target them with advertising that can be so specific it makes them feel uncomfortable. The report is a clarion call to the government and the technology sector: what are we going to do about this now we see it in black and white?”

The full report can be read here.

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