Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Australian Law Reform Commission releases privacy door stopper

It's hard to fault the Australian Law Reform Commission on its attention to detail in the just released discussion paper on reform of Australia's privacy laws. See:
Discussion Paper 72, Review of Australian Privacy Law

The report contains the Commission's preliminary views, runs to almost 2000 pages and includes over 300 recommendations.

For the faint hearted (or time pressed) the Overview (34 pages) available here might be all you need.

No one will be surprised that the Commission concludes that our privacy laws are fragmented, overlap, and are inconsistent, and have failed to keep up with developments in the world around us.

The Commission maps a path forward, calling for national consistency and a uniform set of principles to apply to public and private sector bodies. It recommends abolition of some exemptions from the Act that currently apply to small business and political parties, but says the exemption that applies to activities in the course of journalism should remain, with "journalism" defined in the legislation.

The paper recommends there should be a defined cause of action for breach of privacy, and sets out a range of defences. This issue is the subject of more detailed consideration in a NSW Law Reform Commission Paper that is already out for public comment.

The Commission recommends a notification of breach requirement, limited to where there is a reasonable prospect of harm to the interests of the person concerned. Trivial breaches would not require notification.

It revisits some Freedom of Information issues, and picks up on some of the recommendations made 12 years ago in the ALRC review of the FOI Act, which still awaits a response from the Federal Government. The recommendations include steps to remove overlap between FOI and privacy rights by confining an individual's right to access personal information from a Federal Government agency to the Privacy Act.

Importantly it calls for the creation of an Information Commissioner (the Ombudsman) to “own” responsibility for ensuring the Act is interpreted and applied appropriately, and to monitor what happens in FOI administration across all Federal Government agencies.

Overall it’s an impressive piece of research that will keep the commentators busy during the consultation phase to follow.

There is, and no doubt will continue to be, plenty of reporting on the issue. See ZDNet Australia and Australian IT as two of many media reports today.

No comments:

Post a Comment