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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Appointing a privacy commissioner low priority for most states

Privacy is a hot topic just about everywhere with a whole raft of issues bubbling away that go to the adequacy of policy, legislation and oversight, if any at all, of what is going on. Amid other concerns about skinny and contracting resources available to those charged with the last mentioned responsibility. 

Yet state governments seem relaxed if the line up, or more correctly, gaps in the ranks of privacy commissioners is a guide to priorities.

Hardly consistent with community attitudes in a survey that was taken before the Snowden related revelations of wholesale harvesting and sharing of phone metadata and other recent developments which have probably pushed concern further up the scale.

Queensland has had an acting commissioner for two years. As this reader points out

this may be contrary to the act:
Hello Peter, Thank you for creating this blog on FOI matters. Yes, Queensland was over a year without an appointed Information Commissioner, after Julie Kinross left the position in August 2012. The OIC website notes that Rachel (Rangihaeata) was appointed in September 2013. And Clare Smith and Jenny Mead have been re-appointed as RTI Commissioner (shared role). However, as yet a Privacy Commissioner has not been appointed; after more than two years without one. Mr Lemm Ex acted in the role for 2 years, and now Clare Smith is acting in the role. The Information Privacy Act (under which the Privacy Commissioner is appointed) clearly states that "there is to be a Privacy Commissioner" (s141) "appointed by the Governor in Council" (s144); and that someone may be appointed to act in the role only during a vacancy or absence/inability of the appointed Privacy Commissioner (s152). Such a long period without an appointed Privacy Commissioner appears to be contrary to the requirements of the Act.
The website of the Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner reveals Victoria tops that  - almost a three year gap there:
David Watts was appointed Acting Privacy Commissioner from 13 April 2013. Mr Watts is also the Victorian Commissioner for Law Enforcement Data Security. Following the Attorney-General’s December 2012 announcement of the creation of a new office of the Privacy and Data Protection Commissioner, Mr Watts is leading the transition project to bring the two existing bodies into the one new entity. Legislation to establish the new Privacy and Data Protection Commissioner will be introduced into Parliament in 2013... Dr Anthony Bendall was Acting Victorian Privacy Commissioner from 13 March 2012 until 12 April 2013.
South Australia and Western Australia go one better, make that worse. 

Neither has a privacy commissioner nor a privacy act. The SA Information Privacy Principles Instruction was issued in 1992 as a Premier and Cabinet Circular and SA has a Privacy Committtee. Putting it ahead of the west where legislation appears to have been considered last in April 2007. 

In Tasmania the Ombudsman is a virtual privacy commissioner.

NSW is the only state with an appointed privacy commissioner at present. But....

It is a part time appointment.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it really is that bad.

    APF's page on PC'ers is here, incl. details for the two Territories: