Thursday, 27 March 2014 14:05

Australia’s digital privacy laws ‘lag other countries’

Professor Barbara McDonald, Law Reform Commission Professor Barbara McDonald, Law Reform Commission

Australian digital privacy laws lag those of other countries, according to a leading academic who says legislation has struggled to keep pace with new technology allowing unprecedented levels of intrusion, surveillance of personal activities and communication of private information.

Professor Barbara McDonald from the Sydney Law School, who is heading the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) Inquiry into Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era, is to expand on her concerns and outline how other countries have met the privacy challenges posed by the digital age at a lecture tonight at the University of Sydney.

“How can the law be one step ahead of emerging technology?” said Professor McDonald.

“Australian law is lagging considerably behind other countries with which we share a common legal heritage and those that come under European Union law. Our common law does not provide an action for deliberate invasions of privacy. Legislation across the country is best described as a patchwork.”


Professor McDonald – who will tonight outline proposals for new laws to protect individuals from invasions of privacy in the digital age - says privacy issues arise from intrusions or surveillance by government, media or activist organisations or data mining by commercial entities.

“At the individual level, there are concerns about things such as inappropriate use of social media for ‘revenge porn’, bullying and harassment, or simply surveillance by neighbours.

“At the same time, the law must protect freedom of speech and the many other valuable public interests which often collide with an individual’s privacy.”

In tonight’s Distinguished Speakers’ Program lecture, Professor McDonald will also announce the proposals in a new ALRC Discussion Paper. The ALRC will provide a final report to the Attorney-General in June.

The lecture, Private Lives, Public Spheres, will be held:

Tonight, Thursday, 27 MARCH
6.00 – 7.00pm
Faculty Common Room, Lv 4,
New Law School Building, Eastern Ave,
University of Sydney (Camperdown campus)

For full details of the event click here


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).



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