Victorian information sharing Bill a threat to privacy

The Victorian Government’s Health Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2021 was rushed through its first parliamentary vote on 14 October 2021, raising many unanswered questions for patients and health care professionals in that state. Put plainly, this legislation allows agents of the Victorian Government a complete record of every Victorian person’s most sensitive and private information. The powers embodied in the Bill are unprecedented. Why does the Victorian Government need to harvest and store such a rich database of patient information? Read More

A new proposed privacy code promises tough rules and $10 million penalties for tech giants

This week the federal government announced proposed legislation to develop an online privacy code (or “OP Code”) setting tougher privacy standards for Facebook, Google, Amazon and many other online platforms. These companies collect and use vast amounts of consumers’ personal data, much of it without their knowledge or real consent, and the code is intended to guard against privacy harms from these practices. The higher standards would be backed by increased penalties for interference with privacy under the Privacy Act and greater enforcement powers for the federal privacy commissioner. However, relevant companies are likely to try to avoid obligations under the OP Code by drawing out the process for drafting and registering the code. They are also likely to try to exclude themselves from the code’s coverage, and argue about the definition of “personal information”. Read More

Attorney General’s Department releases discussion paper on reform to the Privacy Act 1988

On 25 October the Attorney General’s Department released its long awaited Privacy Act Review Discussion paper (the “Paper”). It is far from comprehensive. It avoids making recommendations about a statutory tort of privacy. Rather it continues the continual policy loop as governments of every persuasion push this issue into further review, then consultation then bury it in a report and then hope it goes away until it is recommended or otherwise finds itself before the Government. It has been a hugely expensive, time intensive waste of time. Read More

The government wants to expand the ‘digital identity’ system that lets Australians access services. There are many potential pitfalls

The federal government has been asking the public for feedback on proposed legislation to create a “trusted digital identity” system. The aim is for Australians to use it to prove their identity when accessing public services. But what will a national digital identity system actually involve, who will it serve, and if we need it, how should it be implemented? Read More

Vaccination status – when your medical information is private and when it’s not

We value the idea that our medical information is private and subject to special protection and that our doctor can’t freely share it with others. Yet suddenly, it seems we might be asked to hand over information about our vaccination status in many different situations.
It might be so we can keep doing our job, go into shops and restaurants or travel. It might make us uneasy. But can we refuse to tell others our vaccination status on privacy grounds? What does the law in Australia say about who can ask for it, and why, and what they can do with it? Read More

I’d prefer an ankle tag: why home quarantine apps are a bad idea

South Australia has begun a trial of a new COVID app to monitor arrivals into the state. SA Premier Steven Marshall claimed “every South Australian should feel pretty proud that we are the national pilot for the home-based quarantine app”. But why are we developing such home-quarantine apps in the first place, when we already have a cheap technology to do this? If we want to monitor that people are at home (and that’s a big if), wouldn’t one of the ankle tags already used by our corrective services for home detention be much simpler, safer and more robust? There are many reasons to be concerned about home-quarantine apps. Read More

Police access to COVID check-in data is an affront to our privacy. We need stronger and more consistent rules in place

The Australian Information Commissioner this week called for a ban on police accessing QR code check-in data, unless for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes. State police have already accessed this data on at least six occasions for unrelated criminal investigations. We need cooperation and clarity regarding how COVID surveillance data is handled, to protect people’s privacy and maintain public trust in surveillance measures. We propose more detailed and consistent laws to be enacted throughout Australia, covering all COVID surveillance. Read More

How one simple rule change could curb online retailers’ snooping on you

I spent last week studying the 26,000 words of privacy terms published by eBay and Amazon, trying to extract some straight answers, and comparing them to the privacy terms of other online marketplaces such as Kogan and Catch. The bad news is that none of the privacy terms analysed are good. Based on their published policies, there is no major online marketplace operating in Australia that sets a commendable standard for respecting consumers’ data privacy. Read More

APF’s Position on the 2021 Census

The APF has been buried in a large number of issues, and was unable to prioritise work on the Census during 2020-21. APF invested vast amounts of time in the lead-up to each of the ’06, ’11 and ’16 events. The impact we had was considerable in ’06, but has declined each time since. The simple fact is that the ABS has long since abandoned its once exemplary stand on privacy. It has now positioned itself as the operator of a centralised database on the whole population, expropriating data from many government agencies, retaining all Census and Survey data in identified form, and consolidating it all into a single, dense record. The National Health Survey has been incorporated into the 2021 Census for randomly selected households. Read More