Australia launches review into digital privacy law
University of Sydney Law Professor Barbara McDonald has been appointed Commissioner to lead the Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry into Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era. The commission will review the issue of the prevention of, and remedies for, serious invasions of privacy in the digital era. The terms of reference include reviewing existing privacy statutes and assessing the “rapid growth in capabilities and use of information, surveillance and communication technologies”. It also aims to review international standards and the “desirability of consistency in laws affecting national and transnational data flows.” “We have been asked to consider innovative ways in which law may reduce serious invasions of privacy in the context of an increasingly pervasive digital environment,” ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher said. “And it is not just about a statutory cause of action—something the ALRC recommended in our Privacy Report in 2008—but other appropriate legal remedies to redress serious invasions of privacy. “Most importantly we are to consider the necessity of balancing the value of privacy with other fundamental values including freedom of expression and open justice. With Professor MacDonald’s background in litigation, tort and media law, she will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to our deliberations.” Professor McDonald said this was an “important and rapidly developing area of the law.” “I am fortunate that much work has already been done in Australia and overseas in the last few years, and that many people have commented on how the law should develop,” she said. “There is clearly a community desire for legal protection of personal privacy, but any greater protection must co-exist with other aspects of our society that we value highly: freedom of speech, freedom of the press in its modern forms, effective and proper governance, national security and the openness of social communication that the digital age has allowed." A consultation paper is expected by September, with the final report required by the Attorney-General by 30 June 2014.