Monday, September 17, 2012

Struggling to keep up with privacy issues

Privacy issues and developments have been such that for ages now they far exceed my ability to keep up with anything other than a few majors here and there. The Age today has the first instalment of a series designed to focus attention on the issues. As the lead-in states:
"Australians' privacy protections have been eroded more than in any other country since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, experts warn."
More of the same may be on the way. Data retention rules for ISPs is one of a number of hot issues before the joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security looking at potential reforms to national security legislation, to report by the end of the year.

Meanwhile the slow ponderous path to reform of existing information privacy law-seen as important in 2006 when the issue was referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission, in 2008 when the Commission reported, and in 2009 when the Government announced its first stage response, leaving for another day a whole range of equally significant issues-may be edging closer to action in the parliament. Two other parliamentary committees are inquiring into the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 that would amend the Privacy Act 1988 . The House committee is due to report on 21 September. (Update: tabled here on 17th: in essence in response to a multitude of issues raised by industry and consumers, the committee recommended passage of the bill and that the Attorney General commit to a review of the main areas of concern within a year of commencement-that's a year from nine months after passage of the bill.) The reporting date for the Senate committee has been extended twice and is now 20 September. It's way beyond most mere mortals. Regulators, corporates, industry bodies and a few privacy advocates have been slugging it out through submissions and at hearings. In this supplementary submission the Australian Privacy Commissioner still has concerns that Australian entities won't remain accountable when they send personal information offshore, and among other points responds to criticisms in submissions and hearings of past and present Privacy Commissioners’ use of investigation and determination powers.

Of the many privacy concerns surfacing, interesting to note that drones aren't just a problem in war-zones or nearby (or for those of us who saw the Bourne Legacy, very handy in Alaska)-Australian Privacy Commissioner Pilgrim is concerned about the civilian drone revolution in Australia. And that's as the police start looking into their potential for crime fighting.

I'm sure the Australian Privacy Foundation  and the privacy professionals are struggling as well but they (addition: and others such as Electronic Frontiers Australia) do a better job at keeping up than I can manage.


  1. Anonymous12:31 pm

    Electronic Frontiers Australia will have you covered regarding the tech, or I am happy to answer any questions.

    Put simply the new measures attempt mass surveillance of the Australian people and won't even be effective against determined criminals, who only have to do a google search for "how to remain anonymous online" in order to bypass them.

    Also worrying and up your alley is the fact that the discussion paper is extremely thin on details, the data retention section warranting only a single sentence. However it came out in the recent inquiry that 2 years ago there was a paper giving much more detail that was never made publicly available. See Simon Wolfe's log for details (he attended it) or the hansard transcript should be available somewhere soon. I get the feeling the attorney general's department is trying to get this through without proper oversight and debate.

  2. Thanks for the reminder Daniel. Peter.