The Australian Government released its Cyber White Paper on September 15 to serve as a public discussion paper “on how government, industry and the community can work together to address the challenges and risks arising from greater digital engagement…”
The Cyber White Paper addresses several subjects, among them privacy, security, protecting youth online, Internet governance, and the nation’s digital future. Of particular interest is the section on digital citizenship in a networked society, which states:
Online behaviour – the need for a digital social contract?
Although digital technologies and social media are driving positive social change both within Australia and globally, the increasingly networked and interconnected nature of our social interactions is challenging traditional structures that form the basis of civil society. The social contract between governments and citizens which sees citizens abide by laws in return for the security and protection provided by governments, is challenged in the online environment.
Complicating the traditional concept of the social contract is the central role the private sector plays in shaping outcomes in cyberspace and the new types of social interaction the Internet facilitates. For example the Internet provides the capacity to remain anonymous and to connect socially, unhindered by geographic distance.
However, anonymity is not always appropriate when using a financial or government service. For instance, if a person uses online social support services such as Centrelink or lodges a tax return with the Australian Tax Office, it is a requirement to be identifiable. Conversely, as more services are offered online, anonymity may be reasonably expected in those situations where an online identity is not required. This means where sensitive or private information is stored or transmitted electronically, citizens will expect it to be appropriately secured by the parties involved.
These challenges highlight that we as a society are yet to develop an agreed view on the appropriate balance between the type of behaviour possible online and the negative effects this can have on the civility of online social interactions.
The Cyber White Paper website allows electronic submissions from September 14 to November 14, with the final paper to be released in the first half of 2012.