Changes to digital privacy laws – but are consumers aware?

Consumers are not aware of new digital privacy laws, says Associate Professor Katina Michael.

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Are consumers really properly protected in this digital era with the introduction of new privacy laws now coming into effect?

According to Associate Professor Katina Michael from UOW’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences and Vice Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, many consumers are unaware of changes taking place to privacy. In a recent interview broadcast nationally on ABC and a other interviews with SBS Radio and Ten’s Wake Up, Professor Michael said the majority of Australians were unaware who could access their personal information both in Australia and overseas.

She said when applying for a credit card or a home loan, do people really know that their personal credit history is being tracked and precisely what information is being stored about the products they purchase? 

New privacy laws have now been introduced following amendments being passed by Federal Parliament. The laws as they pertain to repayment history information are retrospective to December 2012. Under the new laws, large organisations and agencies that collect personal data are required to take reasonable steps to notify consumers about the collection of sensitive information, why it is being collected and whether or not it is onsold to third parties. Individuals will also be able to request access to their personal information and expect correction to their data if it is incorrect.

Large organisations that send personal data overseas would also be bound by new principles requiring them to take reasonable steps to ensure the data remain private and secure. The Australian Council of Civil Liberties says the laws needed to be updated to recognise the growth of social media websites over recent years where many users are posting personal information about themselves online. Professor Michael emphasised that consumers who used online dating web sites were particularly vulnerable to identity attacks, given the amount of data collected by the agency to perform “matches’ with prospective candidates that was publicly available.

The new laws also include more comprehensive credit reporting which will allow the reporting of information about an individual's credit history over the previous two years to credit providers. Individuals who make a loan or credit card payments more than five days late, may struggle to obtain credit products in the future as a result of the changes. 

Professor Michael told ABC interviewer Rod Quinn: How many consumers are really aware that if they have been only five days late with a payment this will be listed on their credit history? The same goes if one is more than 60 days late for a utility payment. The Australian Privacy Foundation welcomes some aspects of the new laws which it believes will help to strengthen consumers' rights such as civil penalties for companies who are in breach of the Act, and also new enforcement powers by the Privacy Commissioner.

Professor Michael believes the new laws covering personal data could fail if companies send information to countries with weak privacy laws and regulations, or none at all. If a security breach occurs in an overseas organisation organisation it may remain unknown to Australian consumers. She also thinks that small businesses should not have been exempted from the new privacy laws highlighting the fact that 80 per cent of Australia's businesses are small businesses hiring a quarter of Australia's population. Australia made attempts in the 1980s to centralise people’s information on to one card (combining Medicare and Social Security information for example). However, the Australia Card and the Access Card never got off the ground. 

Professor Michael told ABC listeners that there was a real danger in centralising people’s personal data all on to one card should that information fall into the wrong hands or encourage scope creep. “Having all that information in one place is just too penetrable,” she said.
Professor Michael fielded a range of listener enquiries during her ABC Radio interview.

Katina Michael takes helm of tech magazine

Katina Michael takes helm of tech magazine

As an academic and member of several industry boards, Associate Professor Katina Michael’s kitchen calendar is already brimming with deadlines and engagements. The schedule is now set to become even busier for the mother of three as she begins an exciting new role as Editor-in-Chief of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Technology and Society Magazine.

Professor Michael, who is part of UOW’s School of Information Systems and Technology (SISAT), will take the reigns at the respected publication for the next two years.

“I really am excited about the appointment, especially given I never thought such an opportunity would come my way as early as it did in my academic career,” she said.

“I hope to build on the solid foundations of my immediate predecessors Professor Keith Miller and Professor Joseph Herkert. One of my research interests is the trajectory of future technologies and their social implications so I hope as Editor-in-Chief I will be able to make that even more prevalent in the magazine.”

Professor Michael said while the magazine received many submissions from engineers, she hoped to introduce more interdisciplinary content from philosophers, sociologists, science and media studies commentators as well as business, ethics and legal experts.

“I am also very keen to invite well-known inventors and futurists to write for the magazine,” she said.

As Technical Editor of the Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronics Commerce Research and a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation and Computers and Security Journal, Professor Michael said time management had proved an important skill.

“I am acutely aware of deadlines, write a daily to do list and keep a monthly calendar in the kitchen to keep track of the activities of family, friends and my work,” she said.

“In fact most, of my thinking about the day ahead begins when I am preparing to make the children’s breakfast. The key to fitting everything in is being flexible and willing to compromise dependent on the pressures at play on any given day,” she said.

Professor Michael credited her success to the quality of UOW’s research structure, her colleagues and mentors, the young researchers she had supervised throughout her career, her family and husband and research collaborator Dr MG Michael.

Faculty of Informatics Dean Professor Phillip Ogunbona said Professor Michael’s appointment was a testament to her good work and visibility at an international level.

“Katina brings a lot of passion and energy to her work and is well regarded in her research community. I am really excited and proud that she has been appointed to such a rigorous and highly regarded publication,” he said.

Citation: Jenna Bradwell, August 2, 2011, "Katina Michael takes helm of tech magazine", UOW Media, https://media.uow.edu.au/news/UOW107279.html

Überveillance makes it into a suspense thriller!

Überveillance makes it into a suspense thriller!

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The word, “überveillance”, invented by UOW researchers has now made it into a novel -- Sam Yarney’s suspense thriller novel, The Banjo Player.

Pronounced oohbuhvayluhns, it was coined in 2006 by former UOW Honorary Senior Fellow with the School of Information Systems and Technology (SISAT), Dr M.G. Michael. The concept was further developed together with Associate Professor Katina Michael from SISAT.

The first time the term was used by Dr Michael was in a guest lecture he delivered on the “Consequences of Innovation”.

He and Professor Michael had been researching the trajectory of ‘beneath-the-skin’ surveillance technologies that could identify and locate individuals.

The duo said the word simply ‘came out’ in a moment of inspiration, when Michael was searching for words to describe the embedded technologies. They said the term “surveillance” didn’t describe the full extent of the technological capabilities available today.

“Michael could find no other term but to bring together the German prefix “über” with the French root word “veiller” to describe the exaggerated surveillance conducted by governments in the name of national security,” Professor Katina Michael said.

The Kindle edition of The Banjo Player and hardcover version has the following jacket cover verbatim. It reads:

“A Wall Street banker cashes-in on his considerable investments ahead of a global financial crisis, which few saw coming. Within a few months he has given away most of his fortune and moved to a sleepy seaside town in West Africa, leading a simple life. A few years later, he dies in what appears to be an innocuous boating accident. But is his death connected to things happening several thousand miles away?

The Banjo Player thrusts you into the volatile place where big oil, the environment, political ambition, big money, espionage and cyberspace collide. Will the tectonic plates of things as we know them shift forever? 

In a world where any sense of individualism is steadily being eroded in an inexorable drift towards Überveillance – is there a place for ‘the little guy,'? ”

We obtained a copy of the book in December and low and behold after reading it we see the importance of überveillance in the plot. The key page in the book is page 227 where überveillance is described (as we have formally defined it in our research) and where another term is used in the book by the author- “Super Überveillance” which is abbreviated as “Soober”. Amazingly, the novel is dedicated to “All you SÜbers out there.”
— MG Michael on Sam Yarney's "The Banjo Player"

In the last 12 months “überveillance” has gone from strength to strength, including papers in the June 2010 special issue on “surveillance and überveillance” in the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, and in September 2010 a paper was dedicated to the theme of the überveillance in a special issue on “RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Innovation published by the Proceedings of the IEEE”.

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Citation: Bernie Goldie, January 4, 2011, "Überveillance makes it into a suspense thriller!", UOW Mediahttps://media.uow.edu.au/news/UOW093662.html

Uberveillance cements its position as an official dictionary word

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The word, ‘uberveillance’, coined by MG Michael and further developed by Katina Michael, is now gaining international acceptance and has been officially included in the fifth edition of the printed Macquarie Dictionary.

While uberveillance did not win the Word of the Year in 2008 it did top its category which was ‘Technology’.

The dictionary notes that uberveillance refers to “an omnipresent electronic surveillance facilitated by technology that makes it possible to embed surveillance devices in the human body”.

The word was coined in 2006 by UOW Honorary Senior Fellow Dr M.G. Michael and the concept has been further developed together with UOW senior lecturer Dr Katina Michael.

The first time the term was used by Dr Michael was in a guest lecture he delivered on the “Consequences of Innovation”.

The duo said the word simply ‘came out’ in a moment of inspiration, when Michael was searching for words to describe the embedded technologies. They said the term “surveillance” didn’t describe the full extent of the technological capabilities available today.

“Michael could find no other term but to bring together the German prefix “über” with the French root word “veiller” to describe the exaggerated surveillance conducted by governments in the name of national security,” Dr Katina Michael said.

“We needed a word to describe the profoundly intrusive nature of such technologies and it was no longer about Big Brother looking down, but rather about Big Brother on the inside looking out,” she said.

The Sydney Morning Herald noted in December last year in an article focusing on how the decade of the noughties was drawing to a close that words like uberveillance “might have not yet reached their peak”. The New York Times has also noted the coining of the new word.

Bernie Goldie, February 8, 2010, "Uberveillance cements its position as an official dictionary word", UOW Mediahttps://media.uow.edu.au/news/UOW073050.html