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Privacy Law and Policy Reporter

Privacy Law and Policy Reporter (PLPR)
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Privacy Law & Policy Reporter --- "Reports, reviews and submissions" [1997] PrivLawPRpr 52; (1997) 4(5) Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 94

Reports, reviews & submissions


Bruce Schneier and David Banisar The Electronic Privacy Papers: Documents on the Battle for Privacy in the Age of Surveillance, John Wiley 1997, 747 pp, index, US$59.99, ISBN 0-471-12297-1.

The Privacy Papers is not about electronic privacy in general: it covers only US federal politics, and only the areas of wiretapping and cryptography. The three topics covered are wiretapping and the digital telephony proposals, the clipper chip, and other controls on cryptography (such as export controls and software key escrow proposals).

The documents included fall into several categories. There are broad overviews of the issues, some of them written just for this volume. There are public pronouncements and documents from various government bodies: legislation, legal judgements, policy statements, and so forth. There are government documents obtained under Freedom of Information requests (some of them partially declassified documents complete with blacked out sections and scrawled marginal annotations), which tell the story of what happened behind the scenes. And there are newspaper editorials, opinion pieces, submissions to government enquiries, and policy statements from corporations and non-government organisations, presenting the response from the public.

Some of the material included in The Privacy Papers is available online, none of it is breaking news (the cut-off for material appears to be mid-to-late 1996), and some of the government documents included are rather long-winded (no surprise there). It is not intended to be a ‘current affairs’ study, however; nor is it aimed at a popular audience. The Privacy Papers will be a valuable reference sourcebook for anyone involved with recent government attempts to control the technology necessary for privacy — for historians, activists, journalists, lobbyists, researchers, and maybe even politicians.

Danny Yee (, Board Member, Electronic Frontiers Australia.


After a delayed start the review of the Privacy Act 1993 (NZ) by the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner is now well under way. Section 26 of the Act directs the Commissioner to undertake a review of the operation of the Privacy Act ‘as soon as practicable’ after the Act had been in force for three years and thereafter at five-yearly intervals. Other priorities and pressing calls on resources meant that it was closer to four years when the review commenced in earnest. Section 26 instructs the Commissioner to consider whether any amendments to the Act are necessary or desirable and report his findings to the Minister of Justice. The Minister is required to table the report in Parliament.

Following its tabling in Parliament, the Ministry of Justice will study the report and recommendations. The Minister of Justice will introduce an amending bill to implement those recommendations that he adopts. The NZ practice is to refer practically every bill, and certainly this one, to a select committee for study and public submissions. Accordingly, the Commissioner’s review is hardly the last word on the subject.

The Act does not direct the Commissioner how to carry out the review. Reviews of legislation in other contexts are sometimes carried out ‘behind the scenes’ through the use of interdepartmental committees and limited peak body consultation. The Commissioner determined very early in the piece that public consultation was an essential element in his review. The Act applies to every agency in the country, both in the public and private sectors, and it is important that all points of view be canvassed as to the way in which the legislation has ‘bedded down’.

To facilitate public consultation the Commissioner prepared 12 discussion papers (available at ) which included a series of questions to focus, but not limit, discussion. These were released in batches over a period of three months and a good opportunity provided for submissions to be made. In excess of 120 submissions were received from business, government, community organisations and individuals.

During November the Privacy Commissioner held a series of consultation meetings in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, to give those who have made written submissions an opportunity to talk through some of the issues. The Commissioner will continue to consider the issues, and the submissions, into the new year. The first few months of 1998 will be a period for continuing research into some of the issues formulating recommendations and preparing the report to the Minister. It is likely that some further one-to-one consultation with key stakeholders will be undertaken as issues are narrowed and options refined.

The Privacy Commissioner intends to submit his report before 30 June 1998. If recommendations are made to amend the Act it would obviously not be possible to introduce amending legislation before the second half of 1998, at the earliest. The preparation of any amending legislation is the Ministry’s responsibility and, like all bills, its introduction would be subject to competing demands on Parliamentary time.

Blair Stewart is Manager, Codes and Legislation, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand.

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