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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Greenleaf, Graham --- "AUSTEL announces Privacy Advisory Committee" [1994] PrivLawPRpr 98; (1994) 1(7) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 125

AUSTEL announces Privacy Advisory Committee

AUSTEL has moved quickly to establish its Privacy Advisory Committee (see Raiche ''A telecomms privacy committee at last' (1994) 1 PLPR 101), under s53 of the Telecommunications Act 1991 (Cth). The Committee announced on 23 September, is to be chaired by AUSTEL, and its members will comprise one representative each of the Department of Communications and the Arts, the Attorney-General's Department, Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG), the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), the Privacy Commissioner, the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA), and the Small Enterprise Telecommunications Centre Limited, plus a nominee of the Minister for Consumer Affairs. The names of the individuals who will represent these interests were not announced. The Committee will have its first meeting on October 4.

It will be interesting to see whether pro-privacy views will get a word in edgewise. There are six explicit telecommunications and telemarketing business interests represented (exactly 50 per cent of the Committee, so they have veto capacity). There is only one consumer representative included, and no representation for civil liberties or privacy groups (as Gerard Goggin of CTN noted when the Committee was still ''proposed', (1994) 1 PLPR 102), or specialist telecommunications advocacy organisations. The Departments represented are not known to be particularly sympathetic to privacy. AUSTEL's 1992 Report was equivocal on many issues. ADMA policy is that the failure of consumers to exercise call blocking should constitute a blanket consent for any subsequent use of call-generated information. The TIO has been pro-active on such issues as voice monitoring guidelines, but seems to have concluded that ''opt out' provides adequate consumer protection for caller ID (see (1994) 1 PLPR 60). The Privacy Commissioner may have to shout to be heard.

Terms of reference

The Committee's terms of reference are that it is established to assist AUSTEL in carrying out its functions generally, and in particular:

(a) interests of consumers of telecommunications services;

(b) to identify general privacy principles applicable to the telecommunications industry;

(c) to provide advice to relevant industry and community groups in developing codes of conduct which reflect the general privacy principles and specific guidelines;

(d) to provide advice on proposed codes of conduct to ensure that they meet appropriate standards and principles;

(e) to ensure that a principle of ''informed choice' governs the introduction of new technologies and specifically the use and re-use of personal data.

Some of the most important questions in telecommunications privacy are outside the Committee's terms of reference. What aspects of telecommunications privacy call for immediate legislation rather than guidelines or codes of conduct, or may do so in future? What are the ''pre-determined performance indicators' against which ''the effectiveness of the voluntary co-regulatory approach and of the Telecommunications Privacy Committee' is to be reviewed in three years' time (AUSTEL Telecommunications Privacy Report, 1992, 1.6(9))?

Graham Greenleaf


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