We may well remember 2022 as the year of data breaches. Not because there were more than any other year, but that for the first time they reached a point of critical mass. Over the span of a month news broke about two of the most significant breaches in Australia’s history: Optus and Medibank, impacting at least 2.1 million and 9.7 million people, respectively.
Digital Rights Watch played a critical role in ensuring that privacy reform stayed front and centre in the public discussion and media coverage of the breaches. We emphasised the danger of collecting and storing too much personal information, and advocated for privacy protections like data minimisation to reduce the harm of data breaches in the future.
We also turned attention to other sectors that are contributing to a culture of data gluttony, including the real estate industry. We urged people to consider the devastating potential of privacy breaches for renters, and only weeks later a major real estate agent in Victoria was subject to a breach.
Throughout all of this we sustained a consistent call for government action on privacy reform, and after years of dragging their feet on privacy, suddenly politicians from across the political spectrum started to finally pay attention. A month later, the Australian government introduced and ultimately passed a Bill to increase the penalties for serious or repeated infringements of privacy—a process we played an active role in.
And while this Bill will never be enough on its own, it shows that the momentum and political pressure of the digital rights movement is having an impact.
Board Chair, Lizzie O’Shea, spoke with The Saturday Paper in October about the Optus data breach and the policy environment that enabled it.
Program Lead, Samantha Floreani wrote for Reuters about how we need more than just harsher penalties to protect our right to privacy.
Shortly after the Optus breach, Lizzie O’Shea briefed Digital Rights Watch's supporters about the importance of privacy reform.
It's not just the telecommunications industry collecting and storing excessive data. Just days after raising the alarm about the real estate industry, Melbourne's Harcourts had a data breach.
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