MEDIA RELEASE: NSW Tribunal finds that the Opal card breaches privacy

The Australian Privacy Foundation has long argued that the requirement for registration for concession Opal users is a breach of the privacy laws. All users of the public transport system in NSW should have the right to travel anonymously and not be tracked.

A case was brought against Transport for NSW by Nigel Waters (life member and a former board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation) in 2016. Mr. Waters objected to a record of his travel being kept that was clearly linked to his identity. Mr. Waters wanted to be able to use public transport anonymously (an option available for Adult Opal Card users). The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal agreed that the travel information was not reasonably necessary.

This is a big win for Mr. Waters and tens of thousands of Gold Opal Card users in NSW.

Nigel Waters said: “This is major win for privacy rights in NSW. It clearly raises the bar for all NSW government agencies to apply ‘Privacy by Design’ principles to complex new data driven systems.”

David Vaile, Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation said: “You shouldn’t have to put up with being potentially spied on as you travel just because you verify your eligibility for a concession.”

Kat Lane, Vice-Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation said: “The big question is now what Transport for NSW will do? Will they do the right thing and finally recognise the human rights of NSW residents to use public transport anonymously?”

The Australian Privacy Foundation calls on Transport for NSW to immediately disconnect identity details from travel records so that all residents of NSW have their privacy rights respected.

Background Information

Mr. Waters was not represented when he ran the case. Mr. Waters is entitled to a Seniors Card and accordingly a Gold Opal Card. Transport for NSW requires Gold Opal Card users to register their Gold Opal Card.

Mr. Waters did not object to Transport for NSW requiring the following of him:

  • To demonstrate eligibility on application;
  • Produce evidence of his eligibility for the Gold Card on demand; or
  • Verification with Seniors Card periodically to ensure he continues to be eligible

Contacts:

Nigel Waters0407 230 342Nigel.Waters@privacy.org.au
David Vaile0414 731 249David.Vaile@privacy.org.au
Kat Lane, Vice Chair0447 620 694Kat.Lane@privacy.org.au