Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
CTN (Consumers' Telecommunications Network) welcomes the Federal Government's long overdue moves on privacy, given that the AUSTEL Privacy Report was released in December 1992. The proposed AUSTEL Privacy committee has the advantage of including a range of stakeholders in privacy issues and AUSTEL has apparently been given $100,00 for resourcing. However, from the point of view of residential consumers, it faces a number of problems.
Firstly, there is only one consumer representative on the committee and no place set aside for representatives from privacy or civil liberties groups, such as the Privacy Foundation. This leaves consumers at a distinct disadvantage given the problems they already face in coregulatory and industry code of conduct models of mustering the resources needed to do detailed work on issues (compared to industry's vaster and greater resources). Secondly, the Minister has not indicated whether he supports the recommendation of AUSTEL's inquiry that the ''principle' of ''informed choice' should govern the introduction of Calling Line Identification services, particularly Calling Number Display. Does this mean that the Privacy Committee will be starting from scratch on this and other issues covered in the AUSTEL report? Thirdly, the Privacy Committee is only an industry specific telecommunications committee in an industry where technologies are converging; pay TV, for instance, already raises real threats of privacy through a range of different parties handling information on billing and viewing habits to mention just two areas. Telemarketing shows some of the difficulties in applying industry codes of conduct with new technologies and a diverse range on commercial and other bodies collecting information. For this reason, we believe that the extension of the Privacy Act, and its associated Privacy Principles, needs to be seriously considered by the government well before further competition is introduced into telecommunications in 1997.
Gerard Goggin, Policy Advisor, Consumers' Telecommunications Network.