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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Greenleaf, Graham --- "Privacy Committee's 1992 Report" [1994] PrivLawPRpr 61; (1994) 1(4) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 77

Privacy Committee's 1992 Report

Privacy Committee of NSW 1992 Annual Report, May 1994

The preface to the Report by Committee Chairman, Chris Puplick, makes its most important point: 'the Committee is pathetically understaffed and underfunded in comparison with agencies that perform similar roles'. He gives comparisons with the Ombudsman and the Anti-Discrimination Board to prove his point, showing how those (equally worthy) organisations have doubled to 76 and tripled to 33 (respectively) in staff in the last ten years while the Committee's staff has shrunk from seven to six. This reflects the lack of interest in privacy protection by either side of NSW politics since the Committee was created 20 years ago.

The Report documents the wide range of tasks the Committee's staff undertake, in addition to supporting the deliberations of a part-time Committee. It catalogues dozens of issues on which the Committee made representations or gave advice during 1992, most of which are no longer valuable to report, as they have since been overtaken by events.

Committee staff resolved 2424 complaints and inquiries by telephone, and investigated 129 written complaints. The figures below give 1992 figures and then the corresponding 1991 figures. The written complaints involved direct marketing (20 per cent/20 per cent), debt collection (10 per cent/5 per cent); credit related (8 per cent/17 per cent), employment (7 per cent/8 per cent),surveillance (7 per cent/2 per cent), banks (6 per cent/5 per cent), medical (6 per cent/3 per cent); disclosures by RTA or local government (5 per cent/4 per cent), adoption (5 per cent/ 5 per cent) and police methods/criminal records (4 per cent/5 per cent); other (12 per cent). Telephone complaints and inquiries showed a different pattern: employment (13 per cent/13 per cent); privacy legislation (11 per cent/0 per cent); credit (11 per cent/16 per cent); direct marketing (10 per cent/9 per cent); criminal records (7 per cent/5 per cent);surveillance (5 per cent/9 per cent); medical (5 per cent/4 per cent); other (28 per cent). No analysis of the percentages of justified complaints is given. Some significant complaints are reported in Cases & Complaints.

The Report also notes that the Ombudsman received 106 privacy-related complaints against police in 1992, including 88 complaints concerning ''improper or inappropriate release, sale or supply of information', eight of improper access to information, seven of improper public statements, and three of defamatory statements.

Graham Greenleaf

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