Experts weigh in on digital rights reform. 

Digital policy is a sticky web of disjointed laws, privacy concerns and violations of our civil liberties. Most of us are concerned about mass surveillance, targeted advertising and government hacking but when it comes to improving and protecting our digital rights, where to begin?

Digital rights are fundamental to living in an open and free society. 

But they are under threat. Because large corporations and politicians continue to spy on us, sell our data and control what we can and can’t see. 

We can’t trust the government or Big Tech to have our best interests at heart. 

In this ‘Ask an Expert’ series by Electronic Frontiers Australia, we call on our network of digital rights enthusiasts and experts. 

Journalists, researchers, professors and lawyers will apply their unique knowledge to reveal the one thing they would change to improve the digital rights of all Australians. 

Justin Warren

Justin Warren is the Managing Director of PivotNine and Board Member of Electronic Frontiers Australia. Follow him on Twitter here

I'd pass privacy legislation that stops private companies and governments from collecting information about us for one purpose and then using it for another purpose without our permission, including selling access to it or sharing it with third parties. The current notice-and-consent approach is fundamentally broken.

If we combined that with a private right of action (like the tort of serious breach of privacy, as recommended by the ALRC in 2014)  I think we'd starve bad actors of the fuel they need to abuse their power. Constant surveillance of everything we do shouldn't be this profitable, so let's fix the market failure with regulation.

We need a right to be left alone.

Vanessa Teague

Vanessa Teague the CEO of Thinking Cybersecurity and a cryptographer known for her work on secret sharing, cryptographic protocols, and the security of electronic voting. Follow her on Twitter here.

If I could change one thing in Australian digital rights, I’d institute public random audits of paper ballots that are electronically counted in the Senate, the State Legislative Councils and the ACT Assembly. The audits would take a random selection of paper ballots and compare them to the electronically-derived digital preferences. They could run open-source software with verifiable randomness to prove that the audit was conducted properly, allow any discrepancies to be addressed or investigated, and demonstrate that the overall error rate was acceptable.

Democracies are resilient. We make bad decisions (truly), but the democratic system allows us to review them. But when the basic mechanism of electing our leaders isn’t properly secured, we have no chance of fixing anything else.

Stilgherrian

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist and commentator who covers the politics of the Internet. Follow him on Twitter here

Statements about digital rights — which are simply human rights in the digital realm — are meaningless unless those rights are enshrined in law and enforceable. However Australia is missing a necessary precondition for that being possible: a bill of rights outlining exactly what rights we have.

A necessary precondition for a bill of rights is a parliament that's willing to give it priority across the political spectrum. A necessary precondition for that is for human rights to be an election issue — up there with the current top five of the economy, health, tax rates, the environment, and global warming.

For politicians to care, voters need to care. All voters, not just those willing to wave placards or tweet an ephemeral hashtag. Shifting political focus is a long-term goal, and that surely requires a strategic plan. That's where I'd start.

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