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Asia Pacific Dashboard Digest | Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 22 Jan. 2021 Related reading: Notes from the Asia-Pacific region, 19 April 2024



Happy New Year, privacy pros!

I hope you all enjoyed a safe and relaxing end of 2020 and that you're ready to see what 2021 will bring.

The privacy focus here in Australia will likely continue to be the comprehensive review of Australia's Privacy Act. It's been astounding to see so many responses to the attorney general's Issues Paper from across industry, academia, civil society and individuals. ZDNet published an overview of the 150-page submission by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The OAIC's response advocates for a range of updates, including:

  • Formal expansion of the definition of personal information to include technical data and inferred data.
  • A higher bar for anonymization.
  • Strengthening the requirements for consent (noting that should be relied upon "in situations where the impact on an individual's privacy is greatest").
  • Removal of exemptions that currently exclude the protections of the Privacy Act from applying to employee data and most of Australia's small businesses, which make up over 95% of all Australian businesses.

I know many Australian privacy professionals are anxiously awaiting the discussion draft coming later in 2021.

Also in Australia, the Guardian reports that Facebook recently appealed a ruling against it in a case brought by the OAIC related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook argued that neither Facebook, Inc. (a U.S. company) nor Facebook Ireland are subject to Australian privacy law in this instance. Given Australia's current review of its Privacy Act, perhaps such disputes could be avoided in the future through further clarification of its extraterritorial application.

In related news, ZDNet reports that Facebook-owned WhatsApp has announced a delay to its proposed updates to its privacy terms to May 2021. WhatsApp raised alarms with users when it presented them with terms that described how data could be shared between itself and its parent company, Facebook. So many concerned users flocked to the encrypted-messaging app, Signal, that its servers suffered a daylong outage.

Elsewhere in the region, although Singapore's COVID-19 response has been effective, this Arab News article highlights the costs to privacy. In particular, it calls out the different approaches the government has taken toward the rollout of its TraceTogether app between Singaporean citizens and migrant workers.

Looking onward to 2021, we have new KnowledgeNet chairs joining some of our Australian chapters. We will be working hard to bring you excellent opportunities to come together virtually and, hopefully, in the flesh, to learn from and enjoy the company of your fellow privacy professionals across the region.

Let's have a great year!



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