Independent News For The Australian Public Service
Edition Number 404. Updated Tuesday, 08 April 2014

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Guarding privacy in the digital era

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released a Discussion Paper on creating new laws to deal with serious invasions of privacy in the digital era.

Under the terms of reference for an Inquiry established by former Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, the ALRC is tasked with recommending the detailed legal design of ways the law might prevent or redress serious invasions of privacy.

The ALRC is seeking feedback on 48 proposals and nine questions for reform, including a new Commonwealth Act that would provide for a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy.

ALRC Commissioner for the Inquiry, Barbara McDonald said new technologies were constantly adding new ways to collect and use information about people’s activities, and to intrude into someone’s private life, challenging the usefulness of some existing laws.

“The ALRC proposals reflect the need to provide people across all of Australia with the same level of protection for their privacy and competing freedoms,” she said.

ALRC releases Discussion Paper

Professor McDonald said privacy was a right that must be balanced with other fundamental values, such as freedom of expression.

“The design of a new cause of action reflects the balancing of these competing interests in carving out a level of protection of privacy that would see Australia meet its commitment to international norms/standards,” she said.

The Paper suggested that internet intermediaries, such as social media platforms including Facebook, be granted an exemption from liability via “safe harbour provisions”, in the event of a serious incident and provided that the intermediary acted in good faith.

The closing date for submissions is 12 May 2014 and the Final Report will be delivered to the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis by 30 June 2014.

The Paper is available at this PS News link.

More information, including how to make an online submission, is available at this PS News link.

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