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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No worries, no hurry, on privacy reform

The Age has had a scoop over the last two days with reports about voter profiles held by the ALP in its Victorian campaign data base, which once revealed came as a surprise to those affected, although information about the systems and processes has been around for years

These systems to collect and use personal information in campaigns and other activities continue because the Privacy Act does not apply to registered political parties or to political representatives engaged in certain activities "in the political process."

The Australian Law Reform Commission 2008 privacy report recommended the exemption be removed:
41.54 In the interests of promoting public confidence in the political process, those who exercise or seek power in government should adhere to the principles and practices that are required of the wider community.
But don't hold your breath about a government response to this, or to other recommendations for the removal of the exemption enjoyed by businesses with turnover of less than $3 million ( relevant to this week's report about workplace spying), the changes to the conditions for continuation of the media exemption from the act, for a data breach notification requirement (relevant to this report of Telstra's woes), or a raft of other important issues that the government has had for over two years. All these are for a second or third phase response to the report somewhere down the track. We're only up to phase one, the referral of a set of uniform privacy principles to a parliamentary committee in June this year, after some tweaking of those proposed by the ALRC. The Committee is to report on this aspect by the end of the second sitting week in 2011.

The Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information Brendan O'Connor was quoted by The Australian on the workplace spying issue as saying due to the complexity and sensitivity" of relevant ALRC recommendations, the government wanted to "consult extensively." 

Last month the Minister said privacy reform won't be rushed, outlining a timetable for finalising legislative action on privacy by the middle of 2012- six and a half years after the ALRC was asked to review the law.

One of these days....

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