Wednesday, May 30, 2018

No right to privacy in Australia

Like most civilised countries, Australia has a Privacy Act purportedly protecting people's privacy. Except it turns out that in cases of serious abuse, its not worth the paper it is written on:

The government acted “reasonably” when it released a Centrelink recipient’s personal information to counter her public criticism of the robodebt program, the privacy commissioner has found.

The acting privacy and information commissioner, Angelene Falk, released the findings of a long-running investigation into the government’s release last year of personal information about the blogger Andie Fox.

Fox had written a piece for Fairfax Media critical of Centrelink’s controversial debt recovery program. She had detailed her own experience of attempting to resolve a debt, which she likened to throwing herself into a “vortex of humiliating and frustrating bureaucratic procedures”.

In response, the federal government released details of her interactions with Centrelink and her claims history to another Fairfax Media journalist, who subsequently published an article countering Fox’s claims.

The office of the former human services minister Alan Tudge also sent an internal document marked “for official use only” to journalists, which disclosed additional details of Fox’s relationship and tax history.


Late on Tuesday it found in the government’s favour. The ruling said the department was permitted to disclose personal information for a secondary purpose if the individual “would reasonably expect it to do so”.

Or, to put it another way: Australians should expect the government to weaponise personal information they have been forced to provide if they ever criticise government policy. And no matter what way you look at it, that is simply unreasonable, and counter to the very interests privacy legislation is supposed to protect.