Privacy Awareness week

May 4, 2011 |

The Minister for Privacy Awareness, Brendan O’Connor, put out a press release stating:

It’s now Privacy Awareness Week. The year’s theme is Privacy: It’s all about you.

The week aims to increase awareness amongst all Australians of the importance of being aware of possible privacy infringements and what steps you can take to protect your privacy.

“Privacy is becoming a greater concern for the average Australian. That’s largely due to the surge in online activity and the greater possibility for collection of our personal information.”

“While it may not bother some people to have their personal details accessible to others, it’s important to consider how the availability of our personal information may affect us in future.

“Your personal information can be used in various ways, from unwanted marketing to criminal purposes, such as identity theft or credit card fraud,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Online based crime is increasing and victims can suffer long lasting personal and financial consequences, including theft, a ruined credit rating or worse.”

In other instances, there may be social consequences if other people access your personal information unexpectedly, for example, personal photographs or private comments,” he said.

“For example, that seemingly harmless photograph of a big night out might not be a problem now, but it might be a worry for you when applying for a job or in future personal relationships.”

“If people are concerned about exposing their personal data and aspects of their personal lives to others, there are steps that they can take to better protect their personal information,” he said.

“Social networking is one way that people expose themselves to possible privacy breaches, but there are steps we can all take to minimise the risks,” Mr O’Connor said.

•             Know the privacy policy and settings of the social networking sites you use

•             Think about the information you share and how it’s being used, for example what might a future employer or partner think if they read it?

•             Remember, the internet lets your information be collected and shared easily. The harmless information you post could be added to the mix, creating a full profile about you. Who might see it?

•             Sharing information with just a few people doesn’t stop it reaching a wider audience. Be aware who might pass things on

•             Before you post and tag pictures of someone else, ask for their consent and ask that they do the same for you

•             Set up ‘friend’ groups to control the access different people in your life have to your personal details

•             Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know

•             Location based check-ins can be risky. Do you really want everyone to know that no-one’s home?

The Government is implementing its response to an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission into privacy frameworks.

The ALRC made 295 recommendations covering a very broad range of privacy and information matters. The Government’s response is in two parts.

The first stage response to 197 recommendations is well progressed and the Government is preparing draft legislation to implement the proposed changes.

Draft Australian Privacy Principles and draft comprehensive credit reporting provisions are currently under consideration by the Senate Finance & Public Administration Committee.  Provisions regarding health records, e-health and the like, and the powers and functions of the Privacy Commissioner, are currently being drafted and will be referred to the Senate Committee for consideration once drafted.

“We’re acting to ensure that our privacy laws are robust in changing circumstances, but Australians also need to take responsibility for their actions, particularly online.”

“Privacy Awareness Week provides all of us with a great chance to consider our actions online, and take steps to secure our personal information.”

The privacy awareness site is found here. And in the  spirit of things the Victorian Privacy Commissioner has released a press release on cloud computing, saying:

“Cloud computing technology is being used increasingly by Victorian government agencies in order to reduce capital and operational costs, as the cost of storing data or accessing applications via offsite methods greatly reduces the need for technology infrastructure, IT support and staffing. Cloud computing also allows departments to pool resources efficiently and quickly,” says Helen Versey, Victorian Privacy Commissioner.

“However there are privacy issues – particularly in relation to data security – that need to be addressed if an organisation plans to use cloud computing technology for hosting and accessing its data or applications. Despite the potential cost benefits of cloud computing, the cost in addressing the privacy issues might outweigh capital and operational savings to an organisation. Furthermore, implementing cloud technology requires a different “mindset” than traditional IT services – using the cloud may swiftly reveal failures in security and procedural processes that have not been properly thought out. The desire to reduce costs will need to be balanced with other factors, including ensuring privacy protections, when deciding whether or not to use cloud computing technologies,” explains Ms Versey.

“Victorian government organisations should only use a cloud service provider that agrees to ensure that privacy protection is essential and that agrees to comply with the Information Privacy Principles in the Information Privacy Act 2000,” says Ms Versey.

Ms Versey cautions that “Where the provider is located offshore or even outside of Victoria, taking reasonable steps to protect personal information from misuse, loss, unauthorised access, modification or disclosure may be difficult or even impossible. By using a cloud service, the government agency is relinquishing some – if not all – control over their data. This includes being able to control security measures, and can present problems if something goes wrong.”

On ABC’s Australia the subject was privacy.

What is really missing is action in implementing the ALRC’s proposed reforms. That includes the statutory right to privacy.  In light of the ADFA filming scandal (which is broadly analagous to the facts – as they relate to the incident itself – in Giller v Procopets) and the all too regular stories of people using private information for personal gain or gratification it makes little sense not to give a citizen a right to take action.  Relying on the criminal justice system is a poor option much of the time.  What might be private may not be illegal, see Giller, or for whatever reason the police or the prosecuting authorities may choose to take no action.  Similarly there should be real enforcement powers given to the Information Privacy Commissioner to prosecute eggregious breaches of privacy, abuse of database or lack of appropriate protections.  Hopefully that may change that office’s approach to more effective monitoring and more assertive protection of the public’s right to be let alone.


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