Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
compiled by Graham Greenleaf
On 6 September 1999 Ms Helen Daniels took up the position of Assistant Secretary, Information Law Branch, in the Federal Attorney-General’s Department. Ms Daniels’ appointment fills the vacancy created by the departure of Ms Kathy Leigh to the Civil Law Division of the Department. Ms Daniels was formerly the head of the Intellectual Property Law Branch in the Department.
Source: Attorney-General’s Department.
Privacy New South Wales — the new incarnation of the State’s Privacy Committee — has published a Plain English Guide to the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998. Although the Guide is not yet available on the Privacy NSW web site at <www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/pc>, the site has contact details.
Part 3 of the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act has been partially proclaimed to enable public sector agencies to prepare privacy codes of practice and privacy management plans. These are intended to address compliance with mandatory provisions of the Act which come into force in early 2000.
A number of New South Wales public sector agencies have asked Privacy NSW about the availability of consultants. Privacy NSW is drawing up a list of qualified people and organisations with their contact details. We would be looking to include individuals and organisations who can demonstrate a background in privacy advocacy or administration, an understanding of the Act and the New South Wales legislative and policy environment and preferably relevant consultancy experience.
Interested parties are requested to submit details of their background experience, including any recent consultation work, to Privacy NSW GPO Box 6 Sydney NSW 2001, phone (02) 92288199, fax (02) 92288187, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The Privacy Commissioner wishes to promote a uniform approach to the development of documentation under the Act. Part 3 of the Act prescribes the legal requirements for codes and management plans. Guidance documents are currently being prepared by Privacy NSW and should be available shortly. Prospective consultants should be prepared to attend a training/liaison session with Privacy NSW staff with the form and timing of a session depending on the overall response to this notice.
General government practices covering the engagement of consultants will apply so that inclusion on our list may not preclude having to submit expressions of interest/project designs/quotes to agencies.
If you have any queries about the consultant list please contact John Gaudin at Privacy NSW on (02) 9228 8033.
Source: Privacy NSW.
Text of the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s media release, 25 August 1999:
Current telecommunications legis-lation and policy works well to balance effective law enforcement with appropriate protection of the rights of individuals.
A review of current legislation and policy being tabled today has found that new laws introduced in 1997 are working well but the report has recommended further changes.
The Telecommunications Inter-ception Policy Review recommends that the practice for issuing warrants by members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal continue.
It also recommends that the Common-wealth Ombudsman’s office maintains its ‘watchdog’ role over Australian Federal Police and National Crime Authority compliance with their obligations under the Telecommun-ications Interception Act.
The review recognises that the ability to target individuals as well as particular telecommunication services is important to combating organised crime, especially the drug trade, although it did indicate any action should be accompanied by tighter accountability for warrants of this kind.
Public submissions were sought on the review’s statutory aspects, although confidential aspects of much of this information limited the extent to which the review could be held in public.
The Government will now consider the report and its recommendations and the Privacy Commissioner will be consulted before decisions are made on whether any of the recommendations are implemented.
In its Twelfth Report of 1999, the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills records extensive correspondence with the Treasurer on the issue of search and entry powers in the New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Administration) Act 1998 (Cth) and the imprecise definition of ‘a person’ delegated by the Commissioner of Taxation.
The Committee reports that such definition is the issue
... at the heart of the Committee’s concern in relation to this bill is the exercise of search and entry powers. As the Commonwealth Ombudsman has pointed out, these are ‘highly intrusive powers’ and there should be ‘safeguards, checks and balances, and clearly enunciated legal frameworks to limit the opportunities for [their] abuse’.
The Committee concludes its comment on the legislation:
Notwithstanding that the GST Administrative Act has now been passed, the Committee continues to draw Senators’ attention to this provision as it may be considered to make rights, liberties or obligations unduly dependent upon insufficiently defined administrative powers ...
For more information, call the Committee Secretariat (02) 6277 3050. Website: <www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/scrutiny/index.htm>.
Source: Chris Connolly, Director, Policy Network.
Robin McLeish, who has been the Deputy Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data in Hong Kong, left the office in August at the expiry of his three year contract, to pursue his career as a barrister at the Hong Kong bar.
Commissioner Stephen Lau regretted McLeish’s departure, acknowledging that he is one of the most knowledgeable people on data privacy in Hong Kong. Prior to his appointment as the Deputy Commissioner, McLeish was the senior officer in the Hong Kong Government who nursed and nurtured the Privacy Bill through its various stages culminating in its passage into law in 1995. Lau said:
Source: Hong Kong Commissioner.
Is it really possible to use the internet anonymously? For some years, various service providers have been offering so-called anonymous accounts for using the internet. A debate has broken out in the Politech list at <http://www.well.com/~declan/politech/> about whether these claims can be sustained. The dispute centres around the acknowledgment by some service providers that they would disclose client information to law enforcement agencies if required to by law. This should come as no surprise to anyone, although privacy principles would require users to be clearly notified. The service providers in question claim that while they would of course comply with any legal requirement, they can still offer clients a high degree of privacy because they do not keep records of past email traffic or web browsing history. See articles at <http://www.msnbc.com/news/300480.asp> and <http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/08/biztech/articles/16data.html> and Roger Clarke’s resources:
<http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/DV/Florham.html#Anon> and <http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/DV/NotesCFP99.html#AnonId>.
On 20 August, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, launched two publications designed to provide a comprehensive consumer and business guide to banking on the internet.
‘The Banking on the internet booklet looks at customer readiness in Australia, the response of Australian banks, the international perspective, what is on offer from what banks and information on security, privacy and the costs involved,’ Senator Alston said.
‘It provides vital information for anyone interested in this fast-growing area, in which Australia is a world leader. The future of banking and commerce lies online, but only if consumers can be confident that their rights will be protected.
‘Consumer protection is the subject of the second publication — Banking on the internet: facts for consumers. This is the seventh in the Government’s series of fact sheets for consumers considering or undertaking online transactions.
‘The fact sheet provides the reader with a brief overview of services offered via internet banking, presents security and privacy considerations, and lists consumer bodies that can assist with disputes if they arise.’ The fact sheet was prepared by NOIE and Treasury.
Source: Minister’s media release, 20 August 1999.