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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Victorian Police agreements on information exchanges-what's the point?

Last December when the issue of agreements between the Victorian Police and Aquasure about exchange of information first arose, this post asked "what goes?" An editorial in today's Age raises the same question after a freedom of information request by the state opposition revealed 36 ''memorandums of understanding'' between the police and external agencies, including the AFL.
Not surprisingly, both the police and the AFL deny that any personal information has been exchanged under the agreement, with an AFL statement declaring that any suggestion of secret files being available to the league was ''completely and utterly wrong''. It must certainly be hoped that this is the case; but if it is, what then is the point of the memorandum of understanding? When such secret agreements are in place, how would it be known whether privacy laws have been breached?
The police, like any other citizens, are bound to obey the law, and all citizens and corporate bodies such as the AFL are bound to co-operate with police in the performance of their duties. Mr Cameron needs to explain why these simple and clear obligations need help from - and are not threatened by - secret agreements.
In December Victoria Police and the Department of Sustainability and Environment gave assurances to the Victorian Privacy Commissioner
"that no information had been exchanged with Aquasure under the Memorandum of Understanding and that the intention of the parties was that any information sharing should be in accordance with privacy laws. Both agencies envisaged that any exchange of personal information would be limited to that necessary for the prosecution of any criminal offence or if, in the view of Victoria Police, there was a serious risk to public safety. An exchange for these purposes would be permitted under the Information Privacy Act."
The Privacy Commissioner said at the time the Commissioner for Law Enforcement Data Security (CLEDS) would review whether the agreement "appropriately reflects the CLEDS Standards for law enforcement data security and whether appropriate compliance, controls and arrangements have been put in place. Part of that review will involve determining what, if any, information has been shared under the MOU. The Commissioner commenced the review today. The Privacy Commissioner will await the findings of the CLEDS review to ascertain whether further action is required under the Information Privacy Act."

Eight months on there is nothing about the outcome of this review on the website of CLEDS or the Privacy Commissioner. (Update: AAP reports the Privacy Commissioner was unaware of the extent of these agreements, and is asking questions, but no mention anywhere of the CLEDS review??)

I'm also still wondering if similar agreements are part of policing outside Victoria, in NSW for example, where the police are not subject to privacy law except in respect of their educative and administrative functions.

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