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Friday, November 07, 2014

The Australian dusts off the "Must resist any move to give a right to sue over privacy" file.

In response to the headline to Chris Merritt's report in The Australian "Time to stop droning on about privacy, as a tort is unnecessary", it's wishful thinking but...
it's way, way past time for Chris Merritt to stop droning on that the very idea of a tort for serious unwarranted invasion of privacy would be the end of the world as we know it.
Of course as the Attorney General apparently has said "the Government has made it clear on numerous occasions that it does not support a tort of privacy" this issue is in the lost cause box in any event. Until something in the mix changes regardless of evidence of increasing threats to what we thought might be private, the high level of public concern about privacy and the view of most experts not employed or retained by News Corp that the gap in the law should be filled by a carefully crafted statutory provision. 

News Corp publications of course always have an unerring eye when it comes to balancing privacy and the public right to know and be informed even when it comes to intimate details about Senator Peris. (Segue to a wonderful reflective piece on the general subject by Jack Waterford in The Canberra Times although whoever wrote the headline should have read the article more closely.)  Their activities in the conduct of journalism aren't covered by the Privacy Act but privacy complaints about others were up 183% in the year to June.

This time Merritt is on about a parliamentary committee report that recommended the following among many other steps to deal with gaps in the law in the light of the widespread and growing use of drones.  

You wouldn't know it from Merritt's article that use of drones by journalists wasn't central to the committee's consideration of the problem. Or that there is a stack of reports other than this one that recommend a statutory cause of action:
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider introducing legislation by July 2015 which provides protection against privacy-invasive technologies (including remotely piloted aircraft), with particular emphasis on protecting against intrusions on a person's seclusion or private affairs.
The Committee recommends that in considering the type and extent of protection to be afforded, the Government consider giving effect to the Australian Law Reform Commission's proposal for the creation of a tort of serious invasion of privacy, or include alternate measures to achieve similar outcomes, with respect to invasive technologies including remotely piloted aircraft.
It's in Attorney General Brandis' in tray. Don't hold your breath.

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