Digital Rights: what are they, and why do we need them?

Panel discussion & Launch – The University of Sydney’s 2017 Digital Rights report

A Sydney Ideas forum co-presented with the Digital Rights & Governance project at the University of Sydney



27 November 2017

Whether we like it or not, we all now live deeply digital lives. Intelligent machines manage our social media feeds and financial security. Our work, play and family relations increasingly depend on online platforms and internet services. Yet there is little consensus, let alone good law, policy, and practice, on the shape of our political and legal rights in this new ‘digital Australia’.

We are still debating how to handle privacy and security, freedom of expression, digital labour rights, consumer protection, digital inclusion and access, or what conditions we place on emerging uses of data patterning, cognitive analytics and other forms of artificial intelligence.

At this Sydney Ideas debate, a panel of leading experts will look under the hood of digital rights, exploring:

  • What are digital rights? Why do we need them?
  • What would they look like in Australia?
  • How should we frame, and do, digital rights policy, law and practice?


Ellen Broad is an independent data consultant and Associate for the Open Data Institute. Ellen returned to Australia from the UK in late 2016, where she was Head of Policy for the Open Data Institute (ODI). The ODI, founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt in 2012, is a global leader in the development of standards, policies and software to support the open web of data. Ellen’s team oversaw data strategy and policy development for the ODI, as well as for the ODI’s government and commercial clients. While at the ODI, Ellen was recruited by then Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Elisabeth Truss as her expert adviser on data. Her writing has been published in the New Scientist, Guardian, StatsLife and a range of government and technology publications. She's currently writing a book about ethical AI to be published in the second half of 2018 (Melbourne University Publishing). More information

Osmond Chiu is Policy and Research Officer at the Community and Public Sector Union. He previously worked in the Australian Public Service and has written about the state of the public sector in Australia, social democracy and the politics of race. Osmond is also secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Fabians and editor of Challenge Magazine.

Rob Hanson is a risk management professional who specialises in the policy implications of emerging technologies in his role as a senior researcher at CSIRO’s Data61. Rob is a senior honorary fellow at the ANU’s Autonomy, Agency and Assurance (3A) Institute, where he is establishing their research agenda. Under the direction of Professor Genevieve Bell, the 3A Institute’s mission is to create a new applied science that focusses on managing the impact on humanity from the design and use of artificial intelligence, data and technology. Rob has advanced degrees covering the disciplines of public policy, technology management, and strategic foresight.

Associate Professor Nicolas Suzor researches the regulation of networked society. He is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow in the Law School at Queensland University of Technology, and a Chief Investigator of QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre. Nic is also the Legal Lead of the Creative Commons Australia project and the deputy chair of Digital Rights Watch, an Australian non-profit organisation whose mission is to ensure that Australian citizens are equipped, empowered and enabled to uphold their digital rights. More information

Professor Ariadne Vromen is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Sydney. She has undertaken extensive research on young people’s political participation, including her collaborative project The Civic Network on how young people use social media for politics in Australia, the UK and USA. Her new book Digital Citizenship and Political Engagement was published earlier this year, and looks at the rise of digital activism and GetUp in Australian advocacy politics. Her three current projects look at: the rise of crowdsourced politics via online petitions and donations; public attitudes towards digital rights and governance; and young women’s attitudes towards the future of work in Australia. More information


Professor Gerard Goggin is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. He is also an ARC Future Fellow, finishing a project on disability, digital technology, accessibility and design, and human rights. Gerard is widely published on the social, cultural, political, social justice and rights aspects of digital technologies, especially the Internet and mobile media and communication. More information

The event will conclude with a launch of the 2017 Digital Rights report, undertaken by the University of Sydney’s Digital Rights and Governance Project. Mr Rob Hanson of the CSIRO’s Data61 research network will launch the report. This will be followed by refreshments.

The Digital Rights & Governance project researches the implications of digital disruption for the way we live, work, and participate in politics. It is funded by the University of Sydney’s Sydney Research Excellence Initiative.