Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
Note: Several developments in relation to Codes of Practice, both in Australia and in New Zealand, which would normally be mentioned in Private Parts, are in this issue covered in the Codewatch column.
New Acting NSW Commissioner
Pending appointment of a permanent Privacy Commissioner, the NSW Government has appointed John Dickie as Acting Commissioner from 3 September until 2 December the year. Dickie is an experienced Commonwealth public servant, culminating in the position of Director of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (Chief Censor). A previous appointment was in the Promotion and Information Branch of the Human Rights Commission. l
NSW Privacy Training Program
Privacy NSW, together with the Department of Commerce, has launched an interactive computerised training program to increase general under-standing of the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998. It is intended for staff training in NSW government agencies and local government and has been made available for installation on intranet servers. l
Source: <www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/ pc.nsf/pages/trainingcd>.
Privacy laws worldwide
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Privacy International have released the sixth annual Privacy and Human Rights survey. The report reviews the state of privacy in over 55 countries around the world. l
NZ Passports To Need Digital Photo
The NZ Department of Internal Affairs says new passports will soon be fitted with a facial photo microchip to meet entry requirements to the United States. A digital photo will have to be stored on passports as identification as part of enhanced security at US borders.
The new rules will apply to New Zealanders travelling to the US as part of a visa waiver agreement from October next year.
It won’t mean existing passports will need to be changed, but from October this year, the US will require all passports to be machine readable for those entering without a visa. The Department says that around 4 per cent of New Zealand passports are still not able to be read by machine. l
Total Information Awareness project responds to privacy concerns
The US Defense Department’s Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee held its first public meeting in June in Arlington, Virginia. In the midst of the Congressional debate concerning the Total Information Awareness program in January, the Secretary of Defense established the external board to review the controversial program (now being referred to as the ‘Terrorism’ IAP) in an apparent attempt to defuse opposition and build support. The move was seen as an attempt to deflect criticism of the initiative and to possibly limit Congressional scrutiny. The board, chaired by Newton Minow, consists of several distinguished legal and intelligence experts selected by the Defense Secretary.
According to privacy organisation EPIC, The Advisory Committee appears to be taking its task seriously, although privacy and civil liberties groups continue to press for more independent external scrutiny.
See the Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee website at <www.sainc.com/tapac>. l
Source: EPIC Alert Vol 10.12, June 2003 and subsequent <www.epic.org>.
Transparency of US access to airline passenger data
Various attempts are being made in the US Congress and through the US Courts to obtain greater transparency in relation to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s enhanced Computer Assisted Passenger prescreening System (CAPPS II). An FOI lawsuit by EPIC is seeking to obtain information not only from the TSA but also from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense concerning their involvement in the system. Congressional amendments call for guarantees that TSA has developed a procedure that gives air travelers due process rights; that the technology is effective; that the error or false positive rate is not too high; and that there are operational safeguards against abuse. Other amendments would require a report on the potential impact of the CAPPS II initiative on privacy and civil liberties. l
Source: EPIC Alert vol 10.18 and earlier <www.epic.org>.
Face recognition not working?
Two major US trials of face recognition systems have yielded few if any useful results. The Tampa Police Department abandoned face recognition technology in August after the Identix system failed to produce any positive identifications. The camera based system scanned the faces of tourists, residents, and visitors in Ybor City and then compared the images with police mug shots. No arrests resulted. And last year, two separate face recognition systems at Boston’s Logan Airport failed 96 times to detect volunteers who played potential terrorists as they passed security checkpoints during a three month test period, the airport’s analysis says. The systems correctly detected them 153 times. The airport’s report calls the rate of inaccuracy ‘excessive’. The report was completed in July 2002 but not made public. The American Civil Liberties Union obtained a copy last month through a Freedom of Information Act request. Logan is where 10 of the 19 terrorists boarded the flights that were later hijacked 11 September 2001. Despite these failures, the State Department’s consular affairs office has said the Logan Airport results would not affect plans to use face recognition to enhance passport security (see NZ passports item above). l
Sources: EPIC <www.epic.org> and USAToday On-line 2 September.