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​Australian pollies shut down calls for transparency over data use

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Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John on Wednesday called on both sides of Australian politics to be more transparent about their use of data and the ties political parties have to data analytics firms.

Steele-John's requests were made after it was revealed Cambridge Analytica had used the information of 50 million Facebook users[1] to help Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

The young Greens politician from Western Australia told the Senate there was need for ongoing review of privacy regulations in Australia, including the collection, storage, and use of personal information by government, corporations, and other entities, and moved a motion that would demand all Australian political parties detail any involvement with Cambridge Analytica or its parent company SCL.

Such disclosure would require politicians to divulge if they had ever provided any government data, such as electoral rolls, to third parties.

The senator also asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to consider the collection and use of personal information for political advertising as part of its public inquiry into the impact of digital platforms on media and advertising markets in Australia.

Australian politicians, political parties, and organisations engaged by political parties are exempt from privacy laws under section 7C of the Privacy Act 1988, but Steele-John this week called for any exemptions extended to politicians to be removed from the Act[2].

Quoting a remark made by the privacy commissioner in 2000, Steele-John -- who last month probed the Department of Home Affairs, the Peter Dutton-led superministry created last year[3] that sees the majority of the federal government's enforcement agencies under one roof, on its "cybermoat" strategy[4] -- said the proposed political exemption to the Privacy Act was "not appropriate".

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