Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
Compiled by Graham Greenleaf
Queensland has joined NSW and WA in giving serious attention to privacy legislation. The Cabinet has considered a submission to set up an administrative scheme to implement Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) similar to those found in the Commonwealth Privacy Act, possibly as an interim measure. Implementation issues have been referred to an inter-departmental committee, which is to report back to Cabinet in the near future. Premier Wayne Goss has also stated that the IDC will 'look at' the option of a statutory privacy tort. Attorney-General Matt Foley is reported to regard privacy legislation as at the highest level of his Department's priorities.
The Australian Privacy Commissioner is reviewing the Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Program Privacy Guidelines that he issued in 1994 (see 1 PLPR 34, 93 for summaries) under s 135AA of the National Health Act. The Guidelines cover aspects of the control of personal information collected under the Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits programs which are not covered explicitly in the Privacy Act's Information Privacy Principles, but do not replace the IPPs in their entirety.
A background paper on the review has been issued by the Commissioner, including details of changes that the Health Insurance Commission, the Department of Human Services and Health, and other directly involved organisations already consulted by the Commissioner, would like to see made to the Guidelines. These suggested changes are now released for broader public comment. The background paper notes that the Commissioner has not received any complaints of breaches of the Guidelines.
The deadline for comments is 27 October 1995. The background paper can be obtained from Rhonda Nelson at the Commissioner's Office (02 2849651).
Sydney will play host to a festival of commercial privacy conferences this summer, in additional to a range of government and academic conferences elsewhere around Australia (see 'Calendar' this issue).
On 7-8 Dec, IIR Conferences will stage 'Recent Developments in Information Privacy' at the Medina on Crown, Sydney (IIR Tel: 02 929 5366; Fax: 02 959 4835).
On 11-12 Dec, AIC Conferences will explore 'Privacy of Information', at The Wentworth, Sydney (AIC Tel: 02 210 5760; Fax: 02 221 7773).
IBC Conferences opens the new year on 19-20 February with 'Privacy in Practice' at the Boulevard Hotel, Sydney (IBC Tel: 02 319 3755; Fax: 02 699 3901).
If you're still hungry, the 2nd National Freedom of Information Conference, 'Info 2', will be held on 7-8 March 1996 at the Gold Coast International Hotel. The conference will focus on proposed changes to FOI legislation in Australia and New Zealand, and issues such as children's rights, access by discovery/subpoena and local government issues. Details are available from the Info2 Secretariat, FOI Unit, Box 713 North Adelaide SA 5006; Fax: 08 267 8227; Tel 08 267 8220.
A 'Summary of Proceedings' from the 'Profiling and Privacy Discussion Group' convened by the Australian Privacy Commissioner on 27 July (see 2) is now available from the Commissioner's office, including speakers' notes and overheads. Contact Roslyn van Vliet on (02) 284 2668 for copies. There is no indication that any follow-up action is proposed.
Holly Raiche of the Communications Law Centre (and PLPR) has joined the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Council. Holly is also a member of AUSTEL's Privacy Advisory Committee.
Thirty years after the bloody end of the Sukarno era, the Indonesian government has announced it is dropping a special code from the identity cards of 1.3 million former political prisoners. The code is reported to have stigmatised them and prevented them obtaining bank loans or government jobs. (Louise Williams, Sydney Morning Herald).
The amazing dismantling of the Federal welfare system in the US is being accompanied by a largely unremarked expansion of data surveillance based on the Social Security number (SSN) and cross-system enforcement (see 'Dead beat dads', 2).
Privacy Journal (September 1995) reports: 'The welfare reform bill approved by the Senate September 26 includes House-passed requirements that all Americans must provide Social Security numbers to get a driver's license, auto registration, marriage license, divorce, or professional license. HR 4 also requires all employers to report to the state and federal government the names, Social Security numbers, and nature of work of all new hires. This will be stored in a new databank in Washington.'
The Victorian and NSW governments have announced the large-scale implementation of electronic billing on tollways. Victoria's City Link toll is to be collected electronically. In NSW, the M2 tollway in Sydney's north-western suburbs is likely to be the first in Australia to be collect tolls electronically, with electronic tolling also being a negotiating point in tenders for the M5 East and Eastern Distributor tenders. Taxis and public vehicles are already involved in a trial scheme for the Harbour Tunnel, which has been extended. The NSW RTA Director for the Sydney Region, David Stuart-Watt, has stated that State road authorities are expected to agree on a single electronic billing system in the near future. (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, August 17, 1995).
'Intelligent Transportation Systems', of which electronic tollways are an important part, are becoming a major privacy issues overseas. Reviews of privacy dangers can be found in the Ontario Information & Privacy Commissioner 'Eyes on the Road: Intelligent Transportation Systems and Your Privacy' (March 1995), and in articles by Wigan and Agre and Harbs in Information Technology & People (1994) Vol 7 No 4. In Australia, the Department of Housing and Regional Development's strategy paper 'Timetabling for Tomorrow' (February 1995 - see 2) proposes a system which could preserve anonymity of users, but has been greeted with some scepticism. The 'privacy vacuum' surrounding this issue in Australia can't last.