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Friday, June 22, 2007

Dark memories of black lists

The news that a secret black list of "excludable persons" will be maintained by the NSW Police during the APEC meeting in September, produced justifiable criticism from civil liberties and other groups.

Another loud voice, heard from retirement, was that of the executive member of the NSW Privacy Committee through the seventies, the highly respected Bill Orme.

His letter in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald reminded readers of the investigation of the unfair consequences flowing from secret black lists maintained at that time, including names of doctors and nurses who had been the subject of complaints. It turned out there were 7000 names on the list but 6000 were quickly removed when the list came to light. A whole range of other public and private black lists were revealed during the Committee's investigation.

This experience shows secret lists of this kind are capable of abuse, particularly where there is no oversight, or need to tell people their names are included.

The secret APEC list to be maintained by the NSW Police, is another reminder that NSW privacy law does not apply to the Police except in respect of their administrative and educative functions, an exclusion not seen as appropriate in other Australian privacy laws.

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