Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
Compiled by Graham Greenleaf
If you were holding your breath waiting for the NSW Data Protection Bill (see (1994) 1 PLPR 20), please exhale. The Governor's speech announcing the government's legislative programme at the opening of the NSW Parliament in early March made no mention of the promised Bill. However, strong criticisms of the New South Wales Police's COPS computer system (see next issue for details) by the NSW Privacy Committee prompted NSW Attorney-General John Hannaford to announce that the renamed Privacy and Data Protection Bill has been approved by Cabinet and is ''likely' to be introduced into Parliament this session. The few available details of the Bill make it appear similar to the previous private member's Bill, but do provide for a Privacy Commissioner, for the Privacy Committee to continue as an advisory body to the Commissioner, and for an exemption from privacy principles for disclosures between government agencies for the purposes of law enforcement or protection of the State's revenues
Elizabeth France has been appointed as the UK's second Data Protection Registrar, to succeed Eric Howe on his retirement. Mrs France, 44, currently heads the UK Home Office's Information and Pay Services Division at Bootle (near Liverpool), and has been employed by the Home Office since 1971. She is a member of the Committee for the Co-ordination of Computerisation in the Criminal Justice System.
Coincidentally but perhaps appropriately, The Times (18 February 1994) reported on the same day as Mrs France's appointment that the National Computing Centre in Manchester has announced a new PC package to help companies to register under the Data Protection Act. The #1,000 program will handle the management and updating of registrations and subsequent access requests. There must be a need for it: the UK's National Audit Office found in August 1993 that one in three small companies and one in six large companies claimed to be unaware of their obligations to register, and that an estimated 100,000 organisations in the UK had illegally failed to register. The NAO report is to be investigated by the Commons Parliamentary Accounts Committee
The ''Protecting Information Privacy' Conference, organised by IIR Conferences, will be held at the Sydney Boulevard Hotel, Sydney, on 6 and 7 June. Speakers will include the Australian and New Zealand Privacy Commissioners, the Chair of the NSW Privacy Committee, the President of the NSW Court of Appeal, and senior management of major government agencies and industry associations affected by privacy legislation. The conference manager, Joyce Yong, can be contacted on (02) 929 5366 or (02) 959 4835 (fax)
The third Release for the loose-leaf Federal Privacy Handbook, produced by Redfern Legal Centre Publishing for the Australian Privacy Commissioner, is now available. The Handbook includes all federal legislation for which the Commissioner has responsibilities, and all instruments, guidelines etc issued by the Commissioner. Details may be obtained from Rosemary Grant on (06) 229 7683
Microsoft head Bill Gates, interviewed on his recent Down Under tour, when asked about the potential privacy problems caused by the ''information super highway' he was promoting to prime ministers and the press, replied that ''There clearly need to be laws, because once you get to this highway, even more of your activities are known by the system and its very appropriate for the government to ... make the ground rules for everyone.' If it's good enough for Bill... (see Gareth Powell, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 February 1994)
As scientific knowledge of the human genetic make-up increases, so to does the potential for human genetic information to be used to discriminate against individuals with a genetic predisposition to certain medical conditions. In its response to a parliamentary committee report on genetic manipulation, the Australian government announced that the Privacy Commissioner would be asked to undertake work on the privacy implications. His terms of reference for a discussion paper include:
The Commissioner will initially prepare an overview paper for limited circulation. A second phase may involve a more broadly- based paper and establishment of an expert multi-disciplinary panel to examine the issues in depth
In the absence of a NSW Data Protection Bill (see above story), the NSW Privacy Committee may be with us for some time to come. The present Committee is Chaired by Chris Puplick, former Liberal Senator and now chief executive officer of the Packaging Environment Foundation of Australia. The Committee members are Bill Grant (deputy director-general, Attorney-General's Department), Andrew Humpherson (government MP), Rod Lewis (Partner, Hunt Musgrave and Peach, Solicitors), Ian Macdonald (opposition MP), Jillian Maling (CEO, University of Western Sydney), Michael Norsa (computer consultant), Mark Richardson (deputy CEO, Law Society of NSW), Diana Temple (associate, Department of Pharmacology, Sydney University) and Bob Vermeesch (deputy chairman, Commercial Tribunal). Also a member is Maureen Tangney, the Committee's acting executive member, who heads the Committee's small research and complaints staff. David Smith (general manager, Mirror Australian and Telegraph Publications) has recently resigned as a member
Privacy Laws & Business, publishers of the journal of the same name, will hold the 7th of their very successful annual conferences at St Johns College, Cambridge, UK on 11-13 July. They are also holding a Conference in Den Haag on the day preceding the Commissioner's annual conference. Contact Conference Administrator Ms Gill Ardeman on +44 81 423 1300 or +44 81 423 4536 (fax) for details
Privacy Laws & Business (December 1993) reports that Council of Ministers Working Group which is giving the draft Data Protection Directive its ''second reading' consideration held six meeting during the July-December 1993 Belgian Presidency, but only managed to reach art 8 (omitting art 4). The working group's most important decision was that structured manual data will remain in the Directive, despite opposition from the UK, Denmark and Ireland. The current Greek presidency has scheduled the same number of meetings, but the second reading is not expected (according to Privacy Laws & Business ) to be complete until the end of 1994 under the German presidency. The purpose of a ''second reading' is the creation of a ''common position' to be presented to the Council of Ministers, after which a further revised Directive goes to the European Parliament
The world's Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners will hold their 16th annual conference in Den Haag, Netherlands, on 6-8 September 1994, hosted by the Dutch Registration Chamber (Registratiekamer). The conference admits a limited number of observers from the press and interested bodies to its open sessions. Details may be obtained from Dr B Crouwers on +31 70 3190190 or +31 70 3940460 (fax).
Reviewing the 1993 Commissioners' conference, held in Manchester, Simon Davies of Privacy International praised the novel format (for this conference) of panels representing a wide range of views debating issues, but criticised the quality of many papers, and the lack of opportunities for delegates to contribute (see  10 Computer Law and Security Report 36)