Electronic Frontiers Australia https://www.efa.org.au Promoting and protecting digital rights in Australia since 1994. Sun, 18 Nov 2018 00:51:46 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 EFA Celebrates Renewed Enthusiasm From Members https://www.efa.org.au/2018/11/04/efa-celebrates-renewed-enthusiasm-from-members/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/11/04/efa-celebrates-renewed-enthusiasm-from-members/#respond Sun, 04 Nov 2018 10:26:59 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9466 Continue reading ]]> Electronic Frontiers Australia is celebrating a renewed enthusiasm from members one year after a board refresh.

“EFA members were instrumental in highlighting the flaws of MyHealthRecord, and challenging the overreach of legislation such as the Access and Assistance Bill,” said EFA chair Lyndsey Jackson. “EFA has worked closely with other like-minded organisations over the past year—including Future Wise, Digital Rights Watch, and the Australian Privacy Foundation—to highlight the constant assault on Australians’ digital rights by state and federal governments, and our members have responded enthusiastically.”

Renewed interest from members has resulted in a strong set of candidates looking to join the EFA board to continue the work started by the outgoing board.

“It’s particularly gratifying to see so many women nominating for the board,” said Jackson. “A diverse board reflects our diverse membership, and highlights that digital rights are everyone’s rights.”

EFA has seen a renewed interest in civil and digital rights from the wider community, and that interest is now translating into participation in EFA. “It’s been a challenging year, sorting out the issues inherited from previous administrations,” said Jackson. With those issues now largely behind her, Jackson was up-beat about the prospects for EFA in the coming years.

“We’ve now rebuilt EFA on solid foundations that the incoming board can build upon,” said Jackson. “Free from these distractions, EFA can now focus more of its energy on the fight to preserve our precious digital rights and civil liberties.”

“It’s amazing what we’ve been able to achieve this year, even with these distractions. It bodes well for the years ahead,” she said.

Members will be sent a link to vote one week before the AGM which will be held on 24 November 2018. For more information about the AGM and to see the candidate list visit our 2018 AGM information page.

Media Contact


https://www.efa.org.au/2018/11/04/efa-celebrates-renewed-enthusiasm-from-members/feed/ 0
Board nominations due Saturday! 2018 was a year of change. In 2019 we need doers! https://www.efa.org.au/2018/10/24/board-nominations-due-saturday-2018-was-a-year-of-change-in-2019-we-need-doers/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/10/24/board-nominations-due-saturday-2018-was-a-year-of-change-in-2019-we-need-doers/#respond Wed, 24 Oct 2018 00:29:07 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9436 Continue reading ]]> In October last year, when I nominated to join the board of Electronic Frontiers Australia, I didn't know a lot about the organisation, but I learned quickly how important EFA  is to digital rights in Australia, and as an ally to other civil society organisations. EFA started 24 years ago, it’s a significant legacy, and this year the board have remained committed to keeping the lights on, while we keep fighting for digital rights in Australia.

It is very easy for small organisations to become overwhelmed by the amount of work involved. And with questions asked about the financial state of the organisation before the last AGM it was always likely that there would be challenges.

The extent of those challenges have been larger than anticipated. The board learned income tax debts from previous years hadn’t been paid, and late this year we found that superannuation debts to a former employee are still outstanding from years earlier than had been recorded in the accounting system. The outstanding debts were not made fully known to the board or recorded accurately in the accounting system, and they were not accurately disclosed in last year’s AGM financials. Frankly this is inexcusable.

An independent audit is currently being done and we anticipate the report being released before the AGM.

I cannot express how serious it is for board members and officers to ensure accurate record keeping; and it’s a requirement under the South Australian Corporations Act.

The thought of winding up EFA had crossed the minds of board members several times throughout the year. It is is a testament to the board we have, the governance we put in place, and the support of members and organisations that EFA is viable today.

We have a board election coming up. I need you to help me make sure the future of EFA keeps improving.

This is what we need:

  1. Doers. People who will roll their sleeves up, attend meetings (we meet fortnightly), take on tasks and get them done.
  2. People with experience - governance, finance, business, law, communications, volunteer management, membership management
  3. People that will own a role and do it - in the next year we need better membership engagement and to make better use of the volunteers who want to help
  4. People that care

We also believe that diversity is critical; that critical diversity is a combination of gender, background and experience.

The board’s job is to manage the organisation to keep it functioning, and continuing its mission of promoting and protecting digital rights. If you fit these requirements we need you to nominate. If you know someone who would fit the bill, tell them and ask them to nominate.

As members please vote for people that you believe give the organisation the best chance of ongoing success.

We have achieved so much this year, you will see proof of  that in our AGM reports. For an organisation that financially could have easily folded, members should be very proud. I am.

If you are sitting on the fence feel free to reach out to me on twitter or email chair [@] efa.org.au for a chat - I'm very supportive of women, diversity and inclusion. If you have something to offer but you need a confidence boost before putting your hand up I am an excellent person to have an honest chat with. I can also tell you about other opportunities such as our policy team and ideas for volunteers, campaigns and communications next year.

We are all looking forward to 2019.

Lyndsey Jackson
EFA Chair

Nominations is easy. Become a member or renew or make sure your membership is up to date by 11:59pm Saturday, 27 October, 2018 (this Saturday). And then tell us about you.

Nominees are requested to provide the following, for inclusion in the Notice of Meeting:

  1. a brief bio, indicative length the same as the current Directors' bios (250-400 words)
  2. a brief statement of your intentions as a Member of the board of the EFA (indicative length 100-200 words)

Please submit all nominations to secretary [@] efa.org.au

Please do not nominate someone without their knowledge or consent.

If you have any questions, inquiries or want to check your membership status, please address them to:

secretary [@] efa.org.au

Lachlan Simpson
Secretary, Electronic Frontiers Australia


https://www.efa.org.au/2018/10/24/board-nominations-due-saturday-2018-was-a-year-of-change-in-2019-we-need-doers/feed/ 0
Call for Nominations for the EFA Board - the AGM is coming up! https://www.efa.org.au/2018/10/13/call-for-nominations-for-the-efa-board-the-agm-is-coming-up/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/10/13/call-for-nominations-for-the-efa-board-the-agm-is-coming-up/#respond Sat, 13 Oct 2018 06:27:26 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9429 Continue reading ]]> It's been a big year for EFA and a big year for digital rights. On behalf of the board we thank you for your support this year. We are really looking forward to sharing our progress in 2018 and to start planning for the year ahead.

Nominations to serve as Board members of the EFA are open and are due on Saturday, 27 October, 2018

The Annual General Meeting is to be held on Saturday, 24 November 2018. Details of the format will be forthcoming.

The Constitution dictates that at least five (5) positions are up for election each year. There is a vacancy, and the positions currently filled by Justin Warren (co-opted to vacancy), Richard Burleigh , Alex Schlotzer (not re-contesting), and Stuart Greig (not re-contesting) are open for election.

All currently serving board member are all eligible to nominate again, should they choose to do so.

All Members are now invited to consider standing for the Board, self-nomination is permitted.

Nominees are requested to provide the following, for inclusion in the Notice of Meeting:

  1. a brief bio, indicative length the same as the current Directors' bios (250-400 words)
  2. a brief statement of your intentions as a Member of the board of the EFA (indicative length 100-200 words)

Please submit all nominations to secretary@efa.org.au

Please do not nominate someone without their knowledge or consent.

If you have any questions or inquiries, please address them to:
Lachlan Simpson
Secretary, Electronic Frontiers Australia

Current Board Members are listed at: https://www.efa.org.au/about/#board
Minutes from Board meetings are at: https://www.efa.org.au/about/board-meetings/
The Rules of Incorporation are at: https://www.efa.org.au/about/rules-of-incorporation/
EFA Board Code of Conduct

https://www.efa.org.au/2018/10/13/call-for-nominations-for-the-efa-board-the-agm-is-coming-up/feed/ 0
Joint Submission Assistance and Access Bill 2018 https://www.efa.org.au/2018/10/07/joint-submission-assistance-and-access-bill-2018/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/10/07/joint-submission-assistance-and-access-bill-2018/#respond Sun, 07 Oct 2018 03:16:12 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9401 Continue reading ]]> Electronic Frontiers Australia collaborated with Digital Rights Watch, Australian Privacy Foundation, Future Wise, The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Access Now and Blueprint for Free Speech to produce a joint submission. With a month to respond this effort allowed us all to work to our strengths and produce a comprehensive report in a short amount of time.

Collaboration across organisations is critical, we are all resource poor, and we are all working on causes we believe in. The outcome is an excellent and thorough report that hits home the critical deficiencies of this legislation.

Make sure you take the time to give it a read: Submission-Assistance-and-Access-Bill-2018_collaborative_submission

The report contains 35 recommendations, and importantly we recommend that members of the Australian Parliament reject the Bill wholesale.

From the report:

"This Bill creates extremely broad powers with almost no oversight without any substantive justification. The possibility that such powers might be needed in future is not a proper basis for the making of laws. Among other things, the Bill effectively enacts  nsecurity by design, which will almost certainly create additional obstacles and exclusions for Australian companies seeking to operate in EU markets.

We recommend that members of the Australian Parliament reject the Bill wholesale, as this is the most appropriate response to the exposure draft in the opinion of the authors of this submission."

"We have numerous serious concerns with this Bill, in particular that it:

  1. Introduces a seemingly scopeless definition of “designated communication providers”;
  2. Increases the obligations on communication providers to assist with law enforcement agencies;
  3. Introduces covert computer access warrants enabling law enforcement to search
    computers and electronic devices without an individual’s knowledge; and
  4. Increases the powers of law enforcement to use and apply the currently available search and seizure warrants."

Read the full submission:  Submission-Assistance-and-Access-Bill-2018_collaborative_submission

https://www.efa.org.au/2018/10/07/joint-submission-assistance-and-access-bill-2018/feed/ 0
The Proposed Home Affairs Assistance and Access Bill Affects the Australian Economy https://www.efa.org.au/2018/09/07/the-proposed-home-affairs-assistance-and-access-bill-affects-the-australian-economy/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/09/07/the-proposed-home-affairs-assistance-and-access-bill-affects-the-australian-economy/#comments Fri, 07 Sep 2018 00:15:37 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9368 Continue reading ]]> The Australian Government doesn’t own the Internet, but increasingly it seems to want to. Many of our members own and work in Internet businesses, and they’ve been telling us, loudly and clearly, that they follow the laws of Australia, they don’t place themselves above the law, and they are not a safe haven for bad actors.

And they’re worried that the Assistance and Access Bill will damage their businesses.

These are Australian businesses that don’t sell, scan or phish their customer’s data. Yet the Access and Assistance Bill opens the door for government to ask them to spy on their customers and to compromise their security.

Your security.

People don’t like Google or Facebook trawling their data, and they don’t like the ability for the Australian Government to do the same. Customers here and overseas will simply stop trusting Australian businesses if they believe that the government  is hiding inside their products and services, spying on all and sundry.

Unfortunately, Australia is already seen as having a Government that it is not open to scrutiny or external oversight, and that it will push forward with technology choices that are flawed, unjust and hurt people. My Health Record, Centrelink’s Robo-debt, the Senate inquiry into digital delivery, and CensusFail are all evidence of a Government that just doesn’t understand computers. Now, thanks to this Bill, these failings are going to further damage the economy - unless you help us by speaking up.

While you are writing your submission to email to the Department by Monday 10 September to assistancebill.consultation@homeaffairs.gov.au also consider sending it to other Ministers as well.

The Access and Assistance Bill may start in the Department of Home Affairs, but it spreads to other portfolios, too. Technology, privacy, the economy and the Internet is not confined to a single Department.

If you think this legislation will also affect Australian enterprises and their ability to trade internationally then these Ministers will care about your views too, so email or cc in:

Minister for Foreign Affairs

Senator the Hon Marise Payne - Foreign.minister@dfat.gov.au

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham - minister.trade@dfat.gov.au

If you think this legislation will affect Australia's position as a nation of industry, innovation and science tell the:

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology

Hon Karen Andrews MP (website with new portfolio not updated) karen.andrews.mp@aph.gov.au

If you have views with a regional perspective then tell:

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development

Hon Michael McCormack MP - michael.mccormack.mp@aph.gov.au

And if you think that compromising the success of Australian businesses in a competitive Internet and digital market will affect jobs and businesses now and in the future, then the Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations and the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education will both care about your views

Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations

Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP - kelly.odwyer.mp@aph.gov.au

Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash - Senator.Cash@aph.gov.au

For advice on how to make a submission, go to https://www.efa.org.au/get-involved/making-a-submission

If you would like to share your submission with us we’d love to read it please email memberadmin@efa.org.au after you have sent your own submission to assistancebill.consultation@homeaffairs.gov.au


More reading:

EFA board member Peter Tonoli has just published a blog post with a great links on background content - let's just paste them here shall we?

The devil is in the detail of government bill to enable access to communications data

Anti-encryption bill is ‘overreach’

A Critical Analysis of the Proposed Assistance & Access Bill 2018—an Australian Initiative to Legitimize Decryption

https://www.efa.org.au/2018/09/07/the-proposed-home-affairs-assistance-and-access-bill-affects-the-australian-economy/feed/ 2
Home Affairs Wants to Know - What Do You Think of its ASS Access? https://www.efa.org.au/2018/09/05/home-affairs-wants-to-know-what-do-you-think-of-its-ass-access/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/09/05/home-affairs-wants-to-know-what-do-you-think-of-its-ass-access/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2018 02:50:10 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9352 Continue reading ]]> If you have one task you can prioritise over the weekend can EFA suggests this: submit any comments on the The Assistance and Access Bill 2018 to assistancebill.consultation@homeaffairs.gov.au

Emails need to be in by Monday 10 September 2018. There is no format or minimum response, and the more direct submissions they receive the better the chances they will listen (you’d hope).

We've been asking for two years to see the legislation, and having only four weeks to respond is frustrating. The legislation runs over 200 pages, it’s broad, and it’s complicated.

By all accounts the Government has spoken to big tech companies before making this legislation public. We all know that the big companies will be fine, especially the multinational tech companies with massive budgets and great lawyers who will only do what they need to do. What about the rest us? There has been no consultation despite years of asking. It’s hard not to feel cynical about the Government’s intent.  

This legislation will shape the landscape of technology development in Australia and the effects will be felt for decades to come. We need encryption if we are going to safely store, share, and provide services for private data. These laws will weaken security for all Australians by undermining the very technologies we use to keep us safe. These laws will affect how Australia is viewed internationally, and we have already seen people sharing online warnings for those travelling to Australia for business.

The Federal Government has consistently shown that it is not open to scrutiny or external oversight, and that it will push forward with technology choices that are flawed, unjust and hurt people. My Health Record, Centrelink’s Robo-debt, the Senate inquiry into digital delivery, and CensusFail are all evidence of a Government that gets digital so wrong.

The proposed laws greatly expand the powers of law enforcement and other agencies to gain access to the private data of Australians, undermining the digital security they depend on to do their banking, buy things online, and to communicate with their friends. While the government attempts to characterise these new powers as not providing a ‘backdoor’ that is precisely what they do.

EFA is greatly concerned by the wide powers granted by these laws, and the lack of independent oversight of their use. These laws represent yet another major reduction in Australians’ digital rights using scaremongering about terrorism and crime to justify more power in the hands of unaccountable government agencies.

EFA previously joined with AccessNow and 76 other organisations in urging Parliament not to undermine encryption but clearly more is needed. EFA calls on all Australians to tell the government that digital rights are human rights and they must be protected.

For advice on how to make a submission, go to https://www.efa.org.au/get-involved/making-a-submission

For more information about the bill, go to https://efa.org.au/blog-on-assistance-and-access-bill

To show your support for a secure Australia, sign the petition at https://secureaustralia.org.au/

Further Reading: Australian human rights lawyer Lizzie O’Shea made the New York Times Opinion section with Australia Wants to Take Government Surveillance to the Next Level

From Digital Rights Watch: Defend Encryption in Australia

From Access Now: What (we think) you should know about Australia’s new encryption bill

Great blog post: Assistance and Access Bill 2018 Analysis

From EFF: Trust Us, We’re Secretly Working for a Foreign Government: How Australia’s Proposed Surveillance Laws Will Break The Trust Tech Depends On

Don't miss the Juice Media's Honest Government Ad and the inspiration for Ass Access commissioned with support from Digital Rights Watch

https://www.efa.org.au/2018/09/05/home-affairs-wants-to-know-what-do-you-think-of-its-ass-access/feed/ 10
September 12 - Pre-Crime film & digital rights night in Brisbane, Sydney & Melbourne https://www.efa.org.au/2018/08/27/september-12-pre-crime-film-digital-rights-night-in-brisbane-sydney-melbourne/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/08/27/september-12-pre-crime-film-digital-rights-night-in-brisbane-sydney-melbourne/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 12:42:05 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9338 Continue reading ]]> Tickets available now via links below! Book early to avoid disappointment or lack of pizza. 6:30 pm at ThoughtWorks.

Join us for Pre-Crime, a film where science fiction turns into disturbing fact as forecasting software, algorithms and databases quickly become the new fortune-tellers for future crimes, driving us to ask: how much are we willing to abandon for the sake of security?

Followed by a discussion about surveillance technology, predictive algorithms and the interaction between state and citizen with food and drinks.

Tickets $10 wages; $5 unwaged/concession




Brought to you in collaboration by: 

Details about event printer on flyer as listed above

https://www.efa.org.au/2018/08/27/september-12-pre-crime-film-digital-rights-night-in-brisbane-sydney-melbourne/feed/ 0
EFA joins Access Now & 76 others in asking Ministers to stop anti-encryption legislation https://www.efa.org.au/2018/07/17/efa-joins-access-now-76-others-in-asking-ministers-to-stop-anti-encryption-legislation/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/07/17/efa-joins-access-now-76-others-in-asking-ministers-to-stop-anti-encryption-legislation/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2018 02:00:38 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9315 Continue reading ]]> Today Electronic Frontiers joins 76 organizations, companies, and individuals, in sending a letter to leaders in the Australian government asking them “not to pursue legislation that  would undermine tools, policies, and technologies critical to protecting individual rights, safeguarding the economy, and providing security both in Australia and around the world.”

The letter has been sent to Senator the Honorable Scott Ryan, President of the Senate, Christian Porter MP, Attorney-General for Australia, Angus Taylor MP Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security, Tony Smith MP Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Mark Dreyfus QC, MP, Shadow Attorney-General for Australia.

The letter has been initiated by global digital rights organisation Access Now. “Australia is facing a choice on cybersecurity and encryption: real security or false,” said Nathan White, Senior Legislative Manager at Access Now. “The country can either be the testing ground for policies that undermine privacy and security in the digital era, or it can be a champion for human rights, leveraging its relationships to raise cybersecurity standards for the next generation. The world is watching.”

In addition to the letter delivered by experts today, thousands of concerned individuals in Australia and around the world have joined the call for members of Parliament to reject any proposal that undermines the security of tools and devices we all depend on. You can join them in taking action by signing the petition at SecureAustralia.org.au.

Download and read the Australia Encryption Coalition letter today, and tell your local MP's and the MP's recieving the letter your views on their proposed legislation.

https://www.efa.org.au/2018/07/17/efa-joins-access-now-76-others-in-asking-ministers-to-stop-anti-encryption-legislation/feed/ 4
Media Release: Doctors, Lawyers, and Privacy Experts Denounce HealthEngine Sharing Patient Health Data With Non-GPs https://www.efa.org.au/2018/06/25/media-release-doctors-lawyers-and-privacy-experts-denounce-healthengine-sharing-patient-health-data-with-non-gps/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/06/25/media-release-doctors-lawyers-and-privacy-experts-denounce-healthengine-sharing-patient-health-data-with-non-gps/#comments Mon, 25 Jun 2018 04:46:30 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9290 Continue reading ]]> Logo of EFA, FutureWise and Australian Privacy Foundation

Australia, Melbourne — Monday 25 June 2018 — EFA, Future Wise and APF today denounced the actions of HealthEngine and its doctor appointment booking system which has been sharing patient data with law firms, marketers, and other entities with the flimsiest pretense of patient consent.

“If this ethically dubious behaviour is technically legal, then Australia’s privacy legislation must be changed,” said Justin Warren, Electronic Frontiers Australia board member.

“People have made it clear time and time again that information about their health is extremely personal and private and they expect it to be kept secure, not shared with all and sundry,” he said. “I cannot understand how any doctor would allow their patients’ trust to be abused in this way.”

Dr Trent Yarwood, health spokesperson for Future Wise and a medical specialist, said “Making access to healthcare easier for people is critical. However, practice managers and healthcare professionals must understand the privacy implications of how they do this.”

“Too many services are set up with the primary aim of selling personal data to advertisers, and providing ‘convenient’ services to people purely as a hook to get this data,” he concluded.

The original ABC report noted that “HealthEngine also has a data-sharing arrangement with the Federal Government's My Health Record (MyHR) digital medical record system.” The precise nature of this data-sharing arrangement must be made public immediately. The government is making MyHR mandatory, save for a short once-only opt-out period, and the public must know what our health data is going to be used for if we are to have confidence in this system.

Kat Lane, vice chair of Australian Privacy Foundation, said “Data in the government’s MyHR can be downloaded to a GP system and is then freely available—no controls, no audit trail—including potentially to apps such as HealthEngine, without proper informed consent. This is a warning about serious issues of transparency and consent with such apps and MyHR.”

The law must be changed to provide robust privacy protections for all Australians, such as by finally giving us the right to sue for breach of privacy, requiring explicit consent for each disclosure of medical or health data to a third party, and proper auditing of record-access that is visible to the patient. The current system is too easy to bypass for unscrupulous operators looking to make a fast buck.

Download the media release:

Doctors, Lawyers, and Privacy Experts Denounce HealthEngine Sharing Patient Health Data With Non-GPs Joint Response to HealthEngine Data Sharing

Electronic Frontiers Australia is the premier voice for digital rights in Australia. Established in 1994, EFA is independently funded by members and donations. For more information about EFA, see https://www.efa.org.au

About Future Wise

Future Wise is an independent policy and advocacy organisation, focusing on technology, health, and education; and is a strong voice for digital privacy in Australia. Further information about Future Wise is available at their website: https://futurewise.org.au

About APF

The Australian Privacy Foundation is the primary association dedicated to protecting the privacy rights of Australians. The Foundation aims to focus public attention on emerging issues which pose a threat to the freedom and privacy of Australians.
For additional information about APF see https://privacy.org.au

Media Contacts

Email: media@efa.org.au
Twitter: @efa_oz
Phone: Justin Warren - 0412 668 526

Future Wise
Email: trent@futurewise.org.au
Twitter: @FutureWiseAU
Phone: Trent Yarwood - 0403 819 234

Email: kat.lane@privacy.org.au  
Twitter: @apf_oz
Kat Lane - 0447 620 694
Email: Bernard.Robertson-Dunn@privacy.org.au
Bernard Robertson-Dunn - 0411 157 113

https://www.efa.org.au/2018/06/25/media-release-doctors-lawyers-and-privacy-experts-denounce-healthengine-sharing-patient-health-data-with-non-gps/feed/ 1
Centrelink duty of care has failed, regardless of Information Commissioner ruling https://www.efa.org.au/2018/05/30/centrelink-duty-of-care-has-failed-regardless-of-information-commissioner-ruling/ https://www.efa.org.au/2018/05/30/centrelink-duty-of-care-has-failed-regardless-of-information-commissioner-ruling/#respond Wed, 30 May 2018 02:02:22 +0000 https://www.efa.org.au/?p=9270 Continue reading ]]> Privacy rights groups Digital Rights Watch, the Australian Privacy Foundation and Electronic Frontiers Australia have slammed a statement by the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner that their investigation found no wrongdoing in the release of personal information by a government department.

In February 2017, writer Andie Fox wrote an article that was critical of Centrelink’s controversial debt recovery program. In response, the office of the former Human Services Minister Alan Tudge released Ms Fox’s personal details (including details of Fox’s relationship and her tax and claims history) to another journalist, who subsequently published an article countering Fox’s claims.

“It’s extremely concerning that the OAIC has ruled that there has been no breach of privacy here. To assume that the Australian Privacy Principles allow for release of information if a person has a ‘reasonable expectation’ is ludicrous, and tips the power way too much towards the holders of information rather than the individual,” said Digital Rights Watch Chair Tim Singleton Norton

The groups warned of the consequences of a government agency disclosing someone’s personal information due to unfavourable media coverage.

“Australian citizens such as Ms Fox should be able to exercise freedom of speech, particularly in relation to offering opinions and criticisms of government services, without the threat of their personal information being broadcast to the world,” said Mr Singleton Norton.

“There is concern about the appearance that the privacy regulator may have been ‘captured’ by the Canberra federal bureaucracy and politicians after the government’s thwarted 2014-15 campaign to abolish and defund it. Rather than independent and fearless protection for an individual being in effect told ‘you should have expected this smear campaign using you and your partner’s personal information, so it’s legal’, the finding appears to normalise abuse of a legitimate complainant, who now has no other remedy. Ms Fox shared her personal experience of a system we know to have been a case study in IT governance failure: she did not deserve this kind of treatment”, said Australian Privacy Foundation Chair David Vaile.

“Worryingly, this could be taken as a green light for politicians in power to dig dirt, leak and smear anyone who complains publicly about their treatment, exploiting the grossly disproportionate imbalance of power. This would be a real attack on freedom of speech, and on the right to hold government to account, as well as on privacy and data protection. This also raises questions about inconsistencies between ‘open government’ accountability policies and the ‘doxing’ of a complainant.”

“To witness such a fundamental breakdown of the right to freedom of the press is incredibly worrying,” said Electronic Frontiers Australia’s Lyndsey Jackson.

“That someone would speak out and then a Minister would order a staff member to go rifling through an individual’s personal file for ‘dirt’ and then share it with the media is clearly an act of silencing dissent.”

“Governments using the information Australians share with Centrelink, an agency people interact with at their most vulnerable point, to cover their own political agenda undermines public trust in the Privacy Act as well as trust in the OAIC having necessary autonomy.”

https://www.efa.org.au/2018/05/30/centrelink-duty-of-care-has-failed-regardless-of-information-commissioner-ruling/feed/ 0