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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Police and personal information-what goes?

The Victorian Police practice of agreeing to hand over personal information to private sector organisations undertaking major infrastructure projects, in the name of public safety, has been under the hammer all week since Paul Austin in The Age broke the story on Saturday about an agreement with AquaSure, the private consortium building Victoria's desal plant. Austin reported the memorandum of understanding says the Police "will release law enforcement data" to AquaSure:
"Law enforcement data may take the form of any text, images, audio and video, may be stored on computing devices, in hard copy, or on other storage media, and includes (but is not limited to) data related to individuals, aggregated data, written reports and correspondence, memoranda, police diaries, official notebooks, running sheets and other data repositories."

While the first reaction was for everyone involved to defend the deal, with reassurances that "the sharing of information will be done without breaching privacy laws", as the week rolled on the Privacy Commissioner who had not been consulted showed a keen interest (Victoria Police to brief Privacy Commissioner on protestors' files), the Police had a rethink about what they had agreed to, and Austin reported on the "political storm" that had ministers including the Premier on the back foot.

No-one has explained publicly, the early conclusion that information sharing of this kind was in accordance with privacy laws, but the Victorian
Information Privacy Act (Section 13 and IPP 2 in Schedule 1) includes several significant "outs" that permit law enforcement agencies to disclose personal information in certain circumstances. Maybe even these weren't as accommodating as first thought.

Just a thought-what is police practice in this area elsewhere around the country? In NSW for example law enforcement agencies are excluded from compliance with information protection principles except in connection with their administrative and educative functions (Section 27 Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act). What if anything goes, here and in other jurisdictions?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:42 am

    Whilst not directly related to this “incident” in Victoria, those who have had dealings with the Police, even those who aren’t criminals, should consider making a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to see who has accessed your file.

    You may be surprised how many accesses may have been made – and sometimes for inappropriate reasons. The NSW Ombudsman has commented on police inappropriate access many times.

    So, if you’re curious and have some time to spare, in NSW you should be asking for details of who, why, when and from where accesses were made to your “COPS” police file.