Friday, 14 September 2007


The Australian Law Reform Commission has recently completed its deliberations on changes to Australian privacy legislation. The Australian had a news article on the report on Wednesday (September 12), headed "Ruddock pans privacy push." I must say, although it is not something I always say, that I strongly agree with the Attorney General, at least on the face of it.

The report is of such a size that it almost precludes the involvement of anyone in the process other than privacy professionals, whoever they are. The Executive Summary alone is 34 pages. There are 301 recommendations, ranging from highly technical legislative change, to simple measures (like abolishing the fee for a silent telephone number), to quite far-reaching changes (such as creating a new statutory right to sue people who publish private information). An example given is "when filmmakers captured everyday situations involving people in public spaces." Responses to the report are sought, and are due by 7 December.

There are clear implications here for the strong commitment that libraries have towards the free flow of information, and the Press Council has already expressed ts scepticism about the proposed new right. This seems to be an issue on which Australian library interests will want to get together. What will we say? Someone will have to read the report, but who? How will we balance our strong commitment to the free flow of information with emerging ideas of a right to privacy? Watch this space, and please let me know what you think.

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