Privacy Commissioner calls for more transparency on social media

Source: Q and A

The outgoing Privacy Commissioner says there is a growing recognition worldwide of the collective harms from social media algorithms that push users towards extreme content.

By Siobhan Wilson

John Edwards, who has been the Privacy Commissioner since 2014, told Q+A that he believes there is “an increasing consensus that there needs to be more rigorous regulation”.

Edwards, who is heading to the UK to take up a role as that country’s Information Commissioner, says places such as New Zealand - which perceives privacy predominantly as an individual issue - don’t take into account the collective impact of the way social media giants operate.

“So the regulatory model isn’t well-suited to the business model.”

He says that, for example, prior to 2017 it was possible for Facebook advertisers to target, as a market segment, “Jew Haters” and push more and more extreme content that way.

“That individual is unlikely to make a complaint to my office that their personal information has been misused.”

He says countries like the UK and Singapore are among the regions recognising that there needs to be a more holistic approach to the problem of social media’s impact on the public good.