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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Greenleaf, Graham --- "Determination: Secretary, Department of Defence" [1994] PrivLawPRpr 116; (1994) 1(8) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 152

Determination: Secretary, Department of Defence

Australian Privacy Commissioner, Complaint Determination No 1 of 1993, 22 December 1993, Federal Privacy Handbook (publication pending) Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) - IPP 4 (security) - IPP 11 (disclosure) - s52determination powers - s8 acts of agencies by employees

A was formerly enlisted in the Army. He applied for a job as a sales representative, was offered the position, and told the employer he had previously been in the Army. As he did not produce a discharge certificate, the employer rang the Townsville Army base after the interview, and was told that A had been absent without leave for six months. On arrival at work the following Monday, A was immediately dismissed.

The Department had not followed its own Personnel Administration procedures relating to disclosure of a former member's service history. The Commissioner considered that s8, which essentially provides that acts by agency employees shall be treated as the acts of the agency, should apply ''unless there is persuasive evidence that an employee had intentionally sought to act outside the scope of employment by, for example, flagrantly breaching accepted agency standards or defying specific directions'.

The Commissioner found that the Department was in breach of IPP 4 (reasonable security safeguards) and IPP 11 (unauthorised disclosures). The Commissioner concluded that A's dismissal from the finance company was a probable result of the disclosure. He awarded compensation for lost wages and use of a car for 30 days, giving a total economic loss of $2,500. He also awarded $2,500 for non- economic loss, taking into account the embarrassment involved in the circumstance of dismissal from employment. The Commissioner therefore declared that A was entitled to $5,000 compensation under s52(1)(b)(iii), payable by the Department of Defence.

Comment

This is the first formal determination of a complaint under s52 of the Privacy Act 1988. The Department requested that the complaint be dealt with by a formal declaration, presumably for reasons to do with accounting for compensation payments

Graham Greenleaf


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