26 September 2023

Parents warned to keep children off-line

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The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called on parents around Australia to protect their children from surveillance by online monitors who begin collecting data about the children from the day they are born.

According to the National Children’s Commissioner for the AHRC, Anne Hollonds Australian children are the targets of technology even before their birth.

“Parents who use pregnancy apps or share ultrasounds on social media can expect information about their children to be collected and sold to advertisers for profit,” Ms Hollonds said.

“Once a child is born, baby monitors enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and web-connected toys collect data from the cot,” she said.

“One leading expert, Donell Holloway, estimates that by a child’s 13th birthday, advertisers will have gathered on average more than 72 million data points about them.”

Ms Hollonds said the data powered digital advertising that capitalised on information about peoples’ lives, habits and interests.

“When much of this information is collected by devices in the seclusion of bedrooms or living rooms, our children’s right to safety and privacy is severely threatened,” she said.

“The impact of this surveillance becomes sharper as children enter adolescence and their data is used to create personalised content recommendations and advertising profiles.”

She said Government was currently reviewing the Privacy Act 1988, which governs the collection and storage of personal information.

Ms Hollonds said legislation was currently being drafted, which would soon be available for public consultation that focused specifically on social media platforms.

“We must grasp these opportunities to tighten protections for the collection and use of personal data, particularly of children,” she said.

Ms Hollonds said that in addition to amending the Privacy Act, Governments at all levels should also implement recommendations from the AHRC’s recent Human Rights and Technology Report.

That 238-page Report can be downloaded at this PS News link.

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