ALRC hails Government response to privacy recommendations

Adoption of recommendations will deliver a simple, workable, effective privacy system, ALRC says

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is claiming a win following the Federal Government’s decision to respond to 197 of its 295 recommendations for improving privacy protection.

As a first stage response in a two stage process, 141 of the 197 recommendations, made in the ALRC’s report: For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice, had been accepted in full or in principle by the government, with another 34 recommendations accepted with qualification and two further recommendations noted.

The remaining 98 recommendations made by the ALRC, which include a scheme for compulsory data breach notification and the creation of a cause of action for serious invasions of personal privacy, will be considered in a second stage.

ALRC president, emeritus professor David Weisbrot AM, said the advent of supercomputers, the Internet, mobile phones, digital cameras, e-commerce, surveillance devices and social networking websites were all challenging the Privacy Act’s capacity to safeguard sensitive personal information.

“These days, information privacy touches almost every aspect of our daily lives, including our medical records and health status, our finances and creditworthiness, the personal details collected and stored on a multiplicity of public and corporate databases, and even the ability to control the display and distribution of our own images,” he said in a statement.

Commissioner in charge of the Privacy Inquiry, professor Les McCrimmon, said that the ALRC’s reforms, in particular, the move to a unified set of Privacy Principles, covering both the public and private sectors, would make an important contribution.

“The overwhelming message from our report was that Australians do care about privacy, and they want a simple, workable system that provides effective solutions and protections,” MCrimmon said in a statement. “We’re confident our recommendations will achieve this, and so we are delighted with the Government’s very positive response.”

As reported by Computerworld, cabinet secretary and special minister of state, Joe Ludwig, said the decision to assess the recommendations in two stages was due to the need to consult the public and private sectors on the complex and sensitivity of the ALRC’s recommendations.

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