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Saturday, 20 February 2010 21:52

Tasmanian electoral law threatens privacy

By
A law requiring all electoral matter posted on the Internet to be accompanied by the poster's name and address conflicts with the need for users of social networking sites to maintain their privacy.

Consumer Group Digital Tasmania - supported by Electronic Frontiers Australia, Civil Liberties Australia and the Australian Privacy Foundation - has written to the Tasmanian Electoral Commissioner requesting the Commissioner not to enforce what it says is an unworkable section of Electoral Law. It has also sent the letter to Tasmanian premier David Bartlett and to the leaders of the Tasmanian Greens and the Tasmanian Liberals.

Section 191 of the Electoral Law requires at all electoral matter posted on the Internet be accompanied with an authorisation containing a person's full name and home or work address. This, according to Digital Tasmanian would include any posts on Twitter relating to the election and any expressions of opinion on sites such as Facebook

According to Andrew Connor, spokesperson for Digital Tasmania, "The sheer impracticality of enforcing this law on thousands of people in Tasmania and elsewhere commenting on this election is overwhelming...Those who do follow the letter of the law potentially expose themselves to harassment, stalking, physical abuse or identity theft.

"It is conceivable that such personally identifiable information may, once published, remain available online forever.

In the letter Digital Tasmania says: "We believe that the public will either: refuse to post about the election on the Internet, stifling legitimate debate; follow the letter of the law and proceed to publish their name with electoral matter which opens them up to a range of privacy infringements; or simply disregard the law requiring them to put their name and address to any 'electoral matter' online."

The letter claims that "Very few Tasmanians are aware of the requirement, there are literally hundreds of comments being posted all over the internet on a daily basis, and even some candidates for office are failing from a matter of practicality to comply with the legislation.

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