Malcolm Turnbull would “love to see the boss” of Facebook appear before Australia’s intelligence committee, as parliament grapples with new security threats wrought by global internet and social network giants.
After coming to terms on the government’s proposed foreign interference and espionage laws, which are expected to have bipartisan support when the joint committee hands down its report later on Thursday, attention has turned to potential backdoor information sources.
The Australian reported that Facebook is one of the big targets of the committee, after it was discovered the social network had made a deal with Chinese tech companies, including Huawei, which allowed information to be shared.
Facebook entered partnership deals with the Chinese firms Huawei, Oppo, TCL and Lenovo, and in a blogpost published on 3 June acknowledged that the firms were able to access Facebook data to create “Facebook-like experiences for their individual devices or operating systems”.
Huawei in particular has been a flashpoint for Australia’s intelligence agencies and has been banned from involvement in government projects, including the national broadband network, amid concerns about its links to the ruling Chinese communist party.
Now the intelligence committee wants answers on what was allowed to be shared and why.
Asked whether Mark Zuckerberg should appear before the Australian inquiry, as he did at a US Senate committee, Turnbull said he would “love to see the boss”.
“Naturally, he is the founder, but the important thing is everyone is paying a lot of attention to the issue of privacy,” the prime minister said. “And, of course, the question of whether people really know what is being done with their personal data.
“And I think, you know, these social media platforms have developed relatively recently. You’ve got to remember it – Facebook – was only founded in 2005. It’s not a long time ago.
“But they’ve become dominant in every respect, in the way people use them in their lives … So it’s important that we keep a very close eye on this and make sure that if people’s data is being used, it is being used in a way that they understand they have been able to consent to, and consented to with full information, knowing precisely what they are signing up for.”
The government is inching closer on legislation that will force tech companies to allow access to encrypted messages when national security is considered at risk, with Angus Taylor due to head to Silicon Valley and meet with US tech giants.
Those companies, including Apple, have pushed back against similar legislation in the UK and the US citing concerns about who else could access any backdoors built into platforms.
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