[LINK] SMH: Clth PC'er Drowning, OzCard Doing a Phoenix
Fri Nov 15 23:05:34 EST 2002
Public fears over privacy on the rise
The Sydney Morning Herald
Date: November 16 2002
By Cynthia Banham
Complaints to the privacy watchdog have more than tripled in the past
year, blowing out its budget and stretching its resources.
The Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner fielded more than
21,000 calls last financial year and registered more than 600
complaints - up from less than 200 in the previous 12 months - about
intrusions into their lives.
The figures are set out in the commissioner's annual report, released
this week, which says the number of inquiries received was
"substantially higher than the numbers anticipated, or indeed for
which the office had resources to meet".
Funding for the office was based on an estimated doubling of its
workload, but the increase was between three and four times previous
levels, causing the budget blowout of almost $1 million.
New laws passed in December, which for the first time set out rights
regarding privacy breaches by some private-sector organisations and
health services, have contributed to the recent surge of people
complaining about intrusions into their private lives.
The laws also made people aware of their rights over government
agencies and credit-reporting systems.
Most inquiries have been about access to personal information,
choices in how organisations will use their information, the
unnecessary collection of information, and the use and disclosure of
There were also concerns about identity fraud - the theft and
fraudulent use of an individual's personal details - which the report
says is emerging as a "major privacy issue in Australia".
The Federal Privacy Commissioner, Malcolm Crompton, said identity
fraud is a world-wide phenomenon, with half a million cases reported
in a year in the United States.
In Australia there are not equivalent figures of cases, but he said
that some estimates put the dollar value of identity fraud at $4
billion every year.
[This next part wasn't in my printed edition:
Two complaints resolved by the commissioner include two farmers who
were worried about the disclosure, by a federal minister's staff
member, of their personal details after they applied for financial
assistance under a government scheme.
Others included the case of a former employee of a tollway company
who misused customers' credit card details and the disclosure by a
bank of customer credit information through a mail-out error.
The report signals some big issues for the year ahead, including a
possible legal battle which it predicts could end up in the High
Court over what happens when Commonwealth and state privacy
legislation comes into conflict.
"This is most unsatisfactory and I call on the relevant governments
to resolve the situation for all concerned as a matter of urgency,"
the commissioner says in the report.
Another issue which is set to gain prominence as part of the
Government's response to the threat of terrorism is the discredited
The proposal, first floated in the mid-1980s but dropped after public
uproar, is being brought up again, the report says, given the
heightened national security environment.
"I question their necessity," the commissioner says in the report.
"New technologies give us the capacity to respond to these challenges
in ways far more protective of individual privacy."
[My printed version omits those last three paras, and substitutes this:
"One issue likely to gain prominence as part of the Government's
response to the threat of terrorism is the Australian Card, a
proposal that was floated in the 1980s, dropped after public uproar,
but is being revived".
So the PC'er and the reporter score points; but the sub-editor fails
dismally, for making the shortened version both vague and rather
Interpretation 1: the subbie was under pressure and performed poorly.
Interpretation 2: the subbie was one of the old guard from the
Herald, who is anti-the privacy lobby, and pro-laura norder measures
like id schemes]
Roger Clarke http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
Visiting Professor, Uni of Hong Kong, Dept of Comp Sci and Info Sys
Visiting Fellow, Australian National University, Dept of Comp Sci
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