Thursday, 21 October 2021 07:19

ABC refuses request to rethink iview data-sharing decision Featured

ABC refuses request to rethink iview data-sharing decision Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

An internal review by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of its decision to reject a Freedom of Information request from a security researcher, who sought information on its sharing of data through iview, has upheld the original decision.

The decision was conveyed on 6 September to Dr Vanessa Teague, a researcher who runs the infosec outfit Thinking Cybersecurity, and who lodged an FOIA request on 16 June, seeking full information on data-sharing agreements signed by the ABC with third parties who have access to iview data, including Google, Facebook and customer data hub and enterprise tag management firm Tealium, and any other firm to whom the broadcaster has granted access.

Rejecting the request on 6 September, the ABC said, in part: "Having reviewed your request, I have decided to:

  • "Release to you one document, being the DTA [Digital Transformation Agency] Terms of Service, redacted in part;
  • "Provide you with additional information relevant to your request, as set out below; and
  • "Otherwise affirm the Original Decision that the Identified Documents are not required to be released on the ground that they constitute material communicated in confidence."

Dr Teague was told that the ABC was upholding a decision that it could not divulge details because the arrangements it had with these companies was exempted under section 45 of the FOI Act because disclosure could lead to legal action against it for breach of confidence.

In its original rejection of Dr Teague's FOIA request, the ABC said, in part: "Staff consulted have advised that each of the agreements contain information which was given and received by the ABC on the understanding that it would be treated in confidence.

"The information in the documents has the necessary quality of confidentiality. It is only known to a limited group and is not common knowledge or in the public domain.

"The information in the documents was communicated and received on the basis of a mutual understanding that it would be treated by the ABC as confidential. Each of the documents contain clauses requiring that confidence be maintained."

Dr Teague told iTWire she was planning to appeal to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner about the ABC's stance.

Her FOIA request was made after the ABC announced earlier this year that it would make logins compulsory from 1 July onwards for using iview, a service that allows users to watch programs that have already been broadcast or, in some cases, which are yet to go to air.

But then the corporation, a taxpayer-funded entity, said it was putting off the compulsory logins for at least the next six months. It did not announce this on its own, but only divulged the delay when asked by the media.

The ABC only released one document to Dr Teague when she asked for the review, a partially redacted seven-page account of the conditions for use of the Google Analytics 360 Suite written by the Federal Government's Digital Transformation Agency.

iTWire initially raised the issue of compulsory logins on 13 May in an op-ed and then asked the ABC the reasons for this decision, given that the corporation logically has no need to monitor traffic as its funding comes from the government.

Commercial news websites monitor traffic in order to use the data for marketing purposes, but the ABC's budget is met from tax paid by the people of Australia.

Dr Teague told iTWire that there was a bright side to her raising the issue. "On the bright side, I see their ads now focus on voluntarily getting an account, rather than being forced to get an account, so that is possibly a good sign. Not sure though," she said.

The ABC has been contacted for comment.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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