Do more to protect our kids

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When will our regulators step in and end industry self-regulation when it comes to our online privacy? Selfregulation will not protect our privacy and most importantly it will not protect the privacy of our children.

Across 2022, we have seen some world leading examples of poor data management by corporate Australia.

The private sector has been trusted to safeguard our privacy and it’s safe to say they failed. But what did we learn from the experience?

Just last month industry codes designed largely by big tech were submitted to the eSafety Commissioner for consideration.

These codes are required to protect the safety of our children online.

They will not succeed.

Some may find it unsurprising that the very same industry that profits from children’s data have chosen to design codes that result in unacceptably lower standards of protection for children in Australia, than protection set in many other jurisdictions around the world.

Australia should be the safest place in the world to go online but it’s not. The UK, Ireland and even in the home of big tech, California, they have put in place regulators to draft codes rather than trusting industry.

The codes drafted in these regions have some clear differences.

When children register for an account overseas, the default setting is ‘Private’ until 18. In Australia, industry has set the age at 16, offering greater opportunities to commercially exploit young people.

In another example, overseas GPS location default settings in under 18 accounts are ‘Must not Collect’. At home the setting is ‘Must not Broadcast’ meaning the collection of historic locations can be collected for those 16 years and under.

The third and perhaps most concerning development in these codes is the attempt by the tech sector to somewhat sidestep mandatory reporting requirements on child sexual exploitation material legislated in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

The question here is why should our community hold big tech to a lower standard than small businesses, clubs and childcare centres?

Furthermore, Australians don’t believe that the new industry codes pass the pub test. YouGov polling found that 71 per cent of Australian adults did not trust the social media industry to draft codes.

And 73 per cent said they would prefer regulators to draft codes around children’s online safety.

We are calling on the Albanese Government and the eSafety Commissioner to take control and protect our children. We must question the self-interest of the private sector. The future of Australia’s youth is at stake.

Margaret Sheehan is CEO of ChildFund Australia

Daily Telegraph, Sydney 14/12/2022

While support for the Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia was a strong step forward, much more support is needed for the Horn of Africa, where people are facing their fifth consecutive year of drought with more than 20 million people on the brink of famine by Christmas

ChildFund welcomes the additional $1.4 billion over 4 years in Official Development Assistance (ODA) announced in the Albanese Governments first Federal Budget handed down last night.

There are some solid initiatives in the budget, some of the highlights that will assist in helping families prosper include:

  • Increased development assistance to the Pacific and Timor Leste by $900 million over the next four years,
  • $470 million commitment to Southeast Asia over the next four years,
  • Reinstatement of the 80% gender investment target,
  • Confirmation of funding for Pacific Women Lead and Women Together,
  • $65 million through the Indo-Pacific Gender Equality Fund,
  • Continuing to deliver sexual and reproductive health services to women in Southeast Asia,
  • The restoration of funding to the disability central budget, and:
  • $30 million increase to the world class Australian NGO Cooperation Program

There were, however, some disappointments. ChildFund Australia remains concerned that:

  • There is an absence of increased humanitarian investment to address multiple complex emergencies including the largest food crisis in 100 years in the Horn of Africa.
  • While additional financial commitments in the development budget are positive, we are conscious that this won’t address the decline in aid relative to Gross Nation Income in the coming years.
  • ChildFund is concerned that specific measures for children are largely invisible in the ODA budget. The organisation encourages the Australian Government to be intentional regarding their vision for development and the impact on children and young people.

Margaret Sheehan CEO of ChildFund Australia was concerned about the lack of focus placed on children living in difficult circumstances across the regions in the ODA budget.

“Young people face intense challenges in the forthcoming years, from the continued threat of escalating gender-based violence, access to education, the ongoing pandemic impacts through to shouldering the burden of climate change. To address these concerns, they will need clear and decisive support from our government,” she said.

“Children and young people comprise the bulk of the population in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, and without a plan to tackle the critical issues, we risk missing the mark”

“Moving forward, we urge the Albanese Government to put children and young people at the centre of the forthcoming aid policy development.”