Facebook, Google face steeper privacy fines under Australia plan

   The plan comes amid mounting pressure for social media platforms to remove offensive and extremist content after 50 people died in last week's attacks on two mosques in New Zealand.
The plan comes amid mounting pressure for social media platforms to remove offensive and extremist content after 50 people died in last week's attacks on two mosques in New Zealand.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Tech giants such as Facebook and Alphabet's Google will face tougher penalties if they flout privacy laws, under a plan Australia's prime minister said is necessary to safeguard personal information.

Australia's government will introduce measures to increase fines for breaches, strengthen disclosure policies and embolden its privacy regulator to crack down on data misuse, according to a statement on Sunday (March 24).

The plan comes amid mounting pressure for social media platforms to remove offensive and extremist content after 50 people died in last week's attacks on two mosques in New Zealand. The shooting was live streamed.

"They need to stop hate content and they need to do the right thing with people's information," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

The measures will increase the penalty for serious or repeated data-breaches from A$2.1 million (S$2.01 million) to A$10 million.

Companies could also be charged three times the value of any benefit gained or 10 per cent of the company's annual domestic turnover, whichever is greater.

Social media and online companies will also be called on to stop using or disclosing an individual's information upon request, and face tighter rules on protecting the personal information of children and vulnerable groups.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner will also receive new powers to issue infringement notices to those who don't cooperate in resolving minor breaches.

This week's federal budget will also provide the regulator with a A$25 million funding boost over three years to investigate breaches and oversee online privacy rules.

The policies will be made through amendments to the Privacy Act. Legislation will be drafted for consultation in the second half of 2019.