Privacy advocates and organisations concerned about the privacy of children are calling on the government to be “bold” with its Privacy Act reform in order to protect the autonomy and privacy of young Australians.

On Tuesday, Digital Rights Watch circulated an open letter addressed to the Attorney General and the Social Services and Communications Ministers that warned digital natives will grow up accepting surveillance as “the price of participation in online life” unless the government enacts urgent changes.

“We are particularly concerned about the role of technology in children’s education,” the open letter said.

“Children are now required to spend significant amounts of time engaging with technology as part of their schooling, with little to no protection of their privacy.”

Education technology (EdTech) has been coming under increasing scrutiny from digital rights advocates.

Last year, Human Rights Watch published a report that found 89 per cent of EdTech products commonly used – and often endorsed by governments – had data practices that “children’s rights at risk, contributed to undermining them, or actively infringed on these rights”.

This included monitoring children with limited informed consent, taking data about their location and activity in the classroom, and building profiles about their social networks like friends and family.

Likewise, mobile apps targeted at children often conduct “problematic data collection behaviour” such as sending unique Android ID codes to advertising-linked companies.

“Every child has the right to explore their interests, pursue their passions and cultivate their curiosity without fear of tech companies using this information to profile them,” the open letter – co-signed by VicHealth and Parents' Voice among others – said.

“The current state of privacy law in Australia allows data accumulation on a mass scale with few limits.”

In February, the government’s landmark three-year review of the Privacy Act was finally publicised.

The review contained a section dedicated to children’s privacy, recommending a series of reforms ranging from a basic definition of a child (as a person under the age of 18) to be included in the Privacy Act, up to requirements for data collection notices and privacy policies to be understandable by a child and for organisations to have “the best interests of the child” in mind when collecting data.

Much of this would fall under a proposed Children’s Online Privacy Code which would apply to services that are “likely to be accessible by children”.

The code would create stricter limitations on data collection and impose default settings to protect children from predatory data harvesting.

Information Age contacted the Attorney-General’s office about Digital Rights Watch’s open letter, asking if the government could guarantee upcoming reforms would adequately protect the privacy of Australian children.

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General said the government was considering submissions to its review report and that those submissions “will be used to inform the government response”.

Digital Rights Watch is hoping to send “a strong message” to the government that it needs to be bold in how it handles the landmark Privacy Act reform.

“As a parent myself, I worry about how my child’s data will be taken and used by all sorts of shadowy companies that do not have his best interests at heart,” the organisation’s chair Lizzie O’Shea said.

“Our laws currently allow companies to create detailed profiles of children often without their consent, sometimes without their parents even knowing.

“Unless we have bold reform of our privacy laws, we are doing a disservice to the next generation.”