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Google claims no instances of foreign interference campaigns targeting Australia

ZDNet

Representatives from Google have told an Australian Parliamentary committee looking into foreign interference that the country has not been the target of coordinated influence campaigns. "We've not seen the sort of foreign coordinated foreign influence campaigns targeted at Australia that we have with other jurisdictions, including the United States," Google director of law enforcement and information security Richard Salgado said. "Some of the disinformation campaigns that originate outside Australia, even if not targeting Australia, may affect Australia as collateral ... but not as a target of the campaign. "We have found no instances of foreign coordinated influence campaigns targeting Australia." While acknowledging campaigns that reach Australia do exist, he reiterated they have not specifically targeted Australia. "Some of these campaigns are broad enough that the disinformation could be, sort of, divisive in any jurisdiction in which it is consumed, even if it's not targeting that jurisdiction," Salgado told the Select Committee on Foreign Interference Through Social Media. "Google services, YouTube in particular, which is where we have seen most of these kinds of campaigns run, isn't really very well designed for the purpose of targeting groups to create the division that some of the other platforms have suffered, so it isn't actually all that surprising that we haven't seen this on our services." Appearing alongside Salgado on Friday was Google Australia and New Zealand director of government affairs and public policy Lucinda Longcroft, who told the committee her organisation has been in close contact with the Australian government as it looks to prevent disinformation from emerging leading up the next federal election. Additionally, the pair said that Google undertakes a "constant tuning" of the artificial intelligence and machine learning tech used. It said it also constantly adjusts policies and strategies to avoid moments of surprise, where Google could find itself unable to handle a shift in attacker strategy or shift in volume of attack. Appearing earlier in the week before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Google VP of product membership and partnerships Diana Layfield said her company does not monetise data from Google Pay in Australia. "I suppose you could argue that there are non-transaction data aspects -- so people's personal profile information," she added. "If you sign up for an app, you have to have a Google account.


Australia's AI Action Plan – where does it take us? - Ethical AI Advisory

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The one glaring gap in the Commonwealth government's AI strategy and action plan is a process to develop a coordinated governance framework around the development, use and procurement of AI services within commonwealth government agencies. This is where the NSW Government has taken a clear lead, setting out a mandatory customer service circular which all NSW Government agencies need to adhere to. There is practical guidance on adhering to principles, assessing risk, managing data, sourcing AI solutions, meeting legal obligations and more.


TfNSW kicks off new campaign to hire 'hundreds' of IT professionals

ZDNet

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) has announced plans to hire "hundreds" of local IT professionals across the state, with the government entity wanting work performed across "bots, apps, AI solutions, autonomous 3D mapping drones, and cybersecurity", as well as to help it transform the state's camera network. "We really encourage anyone with an interest in this field to throw their hat in the ring. There has been a 500% increase in training budgets for IT alone and at least 40% of IT jobs don't require a degree. This is about finding people from all walks of life that are eager to learn in the seat," TfNSW secretary Rob Sharp said. "This is a really exciting time to be working with Transport for NSW. At the moment we are just scratching the surface in how we are pioneering technology to deliver smart, innovative solutions that enable our people to make NSW a better place to live, work, and visit. Sharp said those with "a passion for technology" should consider working for the New South Wales government agency as it is "ready to help you develop the skills you need for a long and rewarding career in IT". According to TfNSW group chief information officer Richard Host, hiring has commenced on "hundreds" of new roles based in Sydney and regional NSW. "These roles will create opportunities and career pathways to break down barriers for people considering a career in IT," he added. "We are looking for people with passion for solving problems, working with people, and for technology.


An action plan for artificial intelligence in Australia

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The Australian Government has released Australia's Artificial Intelligence (AI) Action Plan. The plan sets out a vision for Australia to be a global leader in the development and adoption of trusted, secure and responsible AI. It includes actions the Australian Government is taking to realise this vision and ensure all Australians share the benefits of an AI-enabled economy. This includes progressing the work we have been doing to promote ethical approaches to AI. A key feature of the Australian Government's Digital Economy Strategy, the action plan will help deliver a modern and leading digital economy by 2030.


NSW government dedicates AU$28m to assist with bushfire technology research

ZDNet

A total of AU$28 million over four years will be directed into research and development of new technologies and industries to help New South Wales tackle future bushfires. NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the funding would be evenly split into AU$7 million chunks under the NSW Bushfire Response R&D Mission. The New South Wales government made the announcement ahead of its 2021-22 Budget, which is set to be handed down next week. "The 2019-20 bushfires claimed lives, destroyed thousands of homes, and cost NSW billions, this investment will go towards reducing the impact of bushfires and responding in the most effective way possible," he said. "This focus on new technology to enhance planning, preparation, and response will save jobs when a disaster strikes and boost jobs in new industries."


Australia to open digital ID system to private sector with consultation on new legislation

ZDNet

Legislation will enter Parliament later this year that will allow non-government entities to provide digital identification services to Australians. The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been working on Australia's digital identity system for a number of years, going live with myGovID -- developed by the Australian Taxation Office -- and accrediting an equivalent identity service from Australia Post in 2019. The digital identity system is touted by the government as a simple, safe, and secure way to verify identity online, as well as one allowing for better interaction with government services. But it also believes digital ID can "enable innovative digital sectors of the economy to flourish". See also: More privacy conscious and not Australia Card 2.0: DTA defends digital identity play While the DTA has developed the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF), which sets out the operating model for digital identity, it is a set of rules that only Australian government entities can follow -- it can't be applied to states and territories, or to the private sector.


Vix Vizion Partners with Cradlepoint On Wireless Face Rec

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Deployed in over 80 per cent of the gaming venues in South Australia, the new solution is part of the state's gambling law reforms to protect the community from the potential harmful effects of gambling. "We had several critical capabilities that our wireless network solution must meet to support our facial recognition devices," said Fraser Larcombe, Vix Vizion. "It must be robust, bullet-proof secure, with the ability to access each machine from anywhere. We got it all from Cradlepoint and LTE." The South Australian state government established a law reform to consolidate banned individuals lists into a single government-managed list.


Banned gamblers in South Australia to be found using facial recognition tech

ZDNet

A large amount of South Australian gaming rooms now have facial recognition technology installed in a bid to find individuals that have been banned from gambling. The tech, installed in over 80% of venues that offer gambling, including pubs, clubs, and casinos, has been delivered by Vix Vizion, in partnership with Cradlepoint. From 3 December 2020, significant gambling reforms came into effect in South Australia. New requirements were introduced relating to the use of facial recognition technology, touted as assisting licensees to identify barred persons entering a gaming area. "Facial recognition technology will further support and assist licensed venues meet their responsibilities of identifying barred patrons by alerting gaming venue staff when a barred patron is detected entering the gaming room," South Australian Consumer and Business Services (CBS) explains.


Human Rights Commission calls for a freeze on 'high-risk' facial recognition

ZDNet

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called for stronger laws around the use facial recognition and other biometric technology, asking for a ban on its use in "high-risk" areas. The call was made in a 240-page report [PDF] from the AHRC, with outgoing Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow saying Australians want technology that is safe, fair, and reliable, and technology that with the right settings in law, policy, education, and funding, the government, alongside the private sector, can "build a firm foundation of public trust in new technology". "The use of AI in biometric technology, and especially some forms of facial recognition, has prompted growing public and expert concern," the report says. Must read: Facial recognition tech is supporting mass surveillance. It's time for a ban, say privacy campaigners As a result, the Commission recommends privacy law reform to protect against the "most serious harms associated with biometric technology".


ASIO chief accuses tech giants of running safe spaces for terrorists and spies

ZDNet

The head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Mike Burgess, has lashed out at tech giants for running interference and handing a free pass to Australia's adversaries and "some of the worst people in our society". "Through the use of encryption social media and tech companies are, in effect, creating a maintaining a safe space for terrorists and spies," Burgess told Senate Estimates on Tuesday. "It's extraordinary how corporations that suck up and sell vast amounts of personal data without a warrant or meaningful oversight can cite a right to privacy to impede a counterterrorism investigation by an agency operating with a warrant or rigorous oversight." Unlike his counterparts at the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Burgess did not go so far as to rule out all legitimate reasons for using encryption. "Encryption is a fundamental force for good as a society, we need to be able to shop, bank, and communicate online with confidence. But even a force for good can be hijacked exploited and abused," the director-general said.