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Monday, August 11, 2008

ALRC Privacy report hits the deck with a bang-all 2700 pages

The Final Report on the Australian Law Reform Commission review of Australia's privacy laws has been released today together with detailed briefing notes, listed below. At 2677 pages in three volumes, there is plenty of fine print, and from what I heard today, the Government plans to take time for further reflection with legislation 12-18 months down the track.

Harmonisation, simplification, consistency and the need to modernise our thinking about privacy in the light of technological change are key concepts that will have plenty of support.But there will be different opinions about much of the detail, including the proposed mandatory notification of serious breaches of security of personal information, and the proposed cause of action for serious invasions of privacy. On the latter, the media is certain to run a strong campaign suggesting this would constrain freedom of expression, but the Commission's proposal is not specifically aimed at the media; establishes a high hurdle for plaintiffs ( a reasonable expectation of privacy, the act or conduct complained of is highly offensive to a reasonable person, and was reckless or intentional); and provides for balancing considerations including whether the public interest in maintaining the claimant’s privacy outweighs other matters of public interest (including the interest in informing the public about matters of public concern and the interest in allowing freedom of expression).

The briefing notes are helpful. I have struck out so far on the Commission's link to the report Summary - probably in melt-down this afternoon. ( If you are looking for the short cut try instead this summary of recommendations from the Commission's media release and the speeches by the Attorney General and President of the Commission at the launch)

Simplifying and harmonising privacy law and practice
Technology-neutral privacy principles should govern rapidly developing ICT
New cross-border privacy laws-greater certainty for all Australians
Rationalisation and clarification of exemptions to the Privacy Act
Improved complaint handling and enforcement
Introducing a mandatory data breach notification scheme.
Reform of the credit reporting system
Children, young people and privacy
Protecting Health Information in the Digital Age
A statutory clause of action for serious invasions of privacy: getting the balance right

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