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Interview – ABC Brisbane Mornings with Rebecca Levingston

8 August 2019

Rebecca Levingston

Subject: technology roundtable, social media privacy, removal of social media abhorrent content


Minister for Industry, Science and Technology was interviewed by Rebecca Levingston on ABC Brisbane Mornings.

Rebecca Levingston: But at 26 minutes to nine, I want to draw your attention to a meeting - well it’s a public meeting but it’s about your privacy. Big tech giants – Facebook, Google, Twitter – they’re having a sit-down with the Federal Industry Minister today to talk about you, your privacy and how it can be protected. Do those tech giants actually care though? That’ll be one question the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews puts to them. Minister good morning.

Karen Andrews: Good morning. How are you?

Rebecca Levingston: Well thank you. Who exactly are you meeting with and why?

Karen Andrews: Well there's a range of the tech companies that are coming in, but let me be clear the roundtable is more than just talking about privacy issues. That may well be part of the discussion. But it's really government engaging with the tech sector for the industries of the future, for Australia's economic growth and of course for the jobs of the future. And it's going through the process of hearing what the tech giants, the tech titans, have to say about issues that they see as challenges and the opportunities that they have to be major contributors to the Australian economy.

Rebecca Levingston: One of the items on the agenda will be encryption laws – they're designed to compel tech companies to grant police and security agencies access to encrypted messages. Why would you expect these big global social media companies to respect Australian laws?

Karen Andrews: Well they do need to respect Australian laws very, very clearly. Look, what I'm sensing from the tech titans is that they see technology and its impacts on people as very important. They are concerned about data issues. That's what I'll be focusing on when I speak to them today about privacy.

Look, there's clearly a lot of data out there. There's a lot of data that’s collected by the tech companies. I'm concerned about the integrity of the data, particularly when that data is used for decision making. I'd like to explore that a little bit more with the tech titans but I'm also keen to hear from them about how they're going to step up and support the growth of Australian businesses – not just their own growth but how are they engaging with other start-ups and other small and medium enterprises to grow the tech sector and to grow industry in Australia?

Rebecca Levingston: Well, Minister, an ACCC report recently made 11 recommendations to address the market power of tech giants in this country. Among those recommendations it called for a new code of conduct for digital giants so that consumers can control what data is collected and how it's used. It sounds tough but what if the big companies just refuse to take notice?

Karen Andrews: Well, let's be clear - so the ACCC have handed in their final report. What government is now doing is undertaking a 12-week public consultation period. I would encourage anyone – whether it be the tech titans, or whether it be small and medium enterprises, or whether it be individuals – that are interested in having some input into this most important issue to be part of the public consultation.

Now, it cuts across a number of Government portfolios. It's being led by Treasury but there's also input from the Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher, and also the Attorney-General Christian Porter, and of course I have an interest from the technology point of view. But this is a very open process for 12 weeks. There will be public consultations and then the government will look at responding to the findings of the ACCC report by the end of this year.

Rebecca Levingston: You're listening to Karen Andrews the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, sitting down with Facebook, Google and Twitter today to talk about you and your privacy amongst other things. Minister just finally, abhorrent content: remind us what the recently passed abhorrent content social media legislation covers?

Karen Andrews: Look, that's one of the things that I think is a very contentious issue. But let me be really clear about what the Australian people want, more so than going into the nuts and bolts of legislation. The Australian people are absolutely behind abhorrent material not being available on the internet and they're absolutely behind the Government's very strong stance on that very important issue.

Look, Australian security is our primary issue. The one thing that is front of mind for all of Cabinet and all of the Morrison Government is the security of our people. So let's be very clear that the action that has been taken to make sure that this abhorrent material is removed and is removed quickly is absolutely front of mind for us and for the Australian people. And I'm sure that just about everyone that you may wish to speak to would be very, very strong in their view that this content should not be online – it should not be available. And the tech giants have a responsibility, clearly, to remove it.

Rebecca Levingston: And in some cases Minister, of course there is a 100 per cent agreement in the case of a live shooter say, something like that. But I wonder if you could offer any sort of guarantee or promise to the parent of a teenage girl this morning whose image has been doctored, shared without her permission that that sort of breach of privacy can't be allowed to happen?

Karen Andrews: Look, what you're raising is a particularly contentious issue and it's one that- I mean if I speak as a parent I would be very concerned about as well. Look I'm happy to discuss that with the tech titans that are going to be in the room this afternoon but I would also say to people that online content and what our young people do with posting photos is something that they need to be really conscious of – that once it goes on online in some places it cannot be removed and removed quickly. So it will be available – it can be screenshot, a lot of things can happen. Now it's devastating when this happens, particularly for young girls so I'm very supportive of everything and anything that we could do as a government to protect our young people.

Rebecca Levingston: Minister I appreciate your time this morning, thanks so much.

Karen Andrews: Okay, you're welcome. Thank you.

Rebecca Levingston: Industry Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews off to that meeting with Twitter, Google and Facebook this morning.