Here’s the latest activity regarding communications related national security legislation brought to you courtesy of the Senate Bills List dated 15 October…


The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has published Discussion Paper 72, asking for feedback on “301 proposals for overhauling Australia’s complex and costly privacy laws and practices”.

As stated in the ALRC’s media release, key proposals arising from the public consultation process undertaken to date include the following:

–simplifying the current regulatory scheme for privacy law;
–providing for the protection of personal information stored or processed overseas;
–introducing a new system of data breach notification to individuals;
–introducing a new statutory cause of action where an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy has been breached;
–abolishing the fee for unlisted telephone numbers;
–expanding the enforcement powers of the Privacy Commissioner;
–imposing civil penalties for serious breaches of the Privacy Act; and
–introducing a more comprehensive system of credit reporting.

Submissions in response to the discussion paper are due by 7 December 2007. The ALRC plans to release a final report and recommendations in March 2008.

I have not been able to review the ALRC’s proposals in depth, but they appear to be responding to the considerably complex nature of Australian privacy laws (which are addressed at the federal and state levels, sometimes with separate treatment for medical records), as well as attempting to bring current privacy principles in line with current information technology and its implications.

There have been a couple of interesting developments in social networking land lately. One demonstrates the value that these networks represent. The other highlights some complicated issues about risks associated with using social networking tools, as well as possible privacy and more general regulatory concerns. (more…)

And here’s a new danger from posting information on Facebook–your university might use the information to fine you for breaking the rules.

Oxford University has reportedly used photographs of students on the popular social networking website Facebook who they say have broken the University’s rules regarding conduct after examinations to charge fines. The conduct? Being sprayed by shaving cream, covered by flour and silly string, and similar offences. (more…)

While Google is currently the dominant player in the Internet search engine business, that doesn’t mean that there is not a great deal of activity among companies vying for a piece of the action. As was recently reported, even 1% of the global search market represents quite a bit of money.

Not all search engine companies use the same strategies to capture market share, however. (more…)

The SMH is carrying an article quoting a telemarketing industry spokesman as saying that many Australian companies have chosen not to renew contracts with Indian call centres after July 1. The proffered reasons are fear of a consumer backlash, and the forthcoming introduction of the register.

Choice quote: “A lot of organisations realised the damage being done to their brand by this form of telemarketing, especially in telecommunications.”

Microsoft is in damage control mode, after it has been revealed that their latest attempt to control piracy phones home to Microsoft every day. The extent of the daily communication appears to be just checking with a Microsoft server that the program should continue to run, and it does not appear to pass any information back to Microsoft other than your computer’s IP address.

However, this daily communication is not disclosed in the EULA displayed during the program’s installation–only the fact that it gathers information about your computer. The interesting question is whether, in initiating undisclosed communications back to Microsoft’s server, Microsoft has broken any laws — because this is very similar to the behaviour that malware exhibits (except that malware often transmits back other data about or from your computer). (more…)

At lightning speed, following on a 4 April announcement, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, has introduced Do Not Call Register legislation.

Unfortunately for small businesses, they are prohibited under the proposed legislation from joining the register. Only private individuals will be able to sign up to the Register, which will make it illegal for telemarketers to solicit them. There will be no charge for individuals wishing to be listed on the Register. Small businesses, including those run by individuals from their homes, will not be eligible. (more…)

Australian Minister of Communications Helen Coonan today announced the formation of a National Do Not Call Register. The Register, which is due to be up and running by early 2007, will allow individuals and small businesses to opt out of receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls. There will be no cost for listing in the Register.

Enforcement of the Register, which will apply to all telemarketers operating in Australia (and overseas telemarketers representing Australian companies), will include warnings, fines, formal directions, and financial penalties. The Register will not apply to organisations that may have public interest objectives (ie, charity groups and persons undertaking social research), nor to companies with an existing commercial relationship with the individual or small business.

The cost of setting up the Register is estimated to be A$33 million, with the Government providing A$17.2 million, and the remainder to be provided by industry.

Another Internet company has been accused of cozying up to the Chinese government. The other week, it was Google, which has decided to filter its search results, according to categories set by the Chinese government. This time, it seems that Yahoo! may have cooperated with the Chinese government in its arrest of a political dissident (and this may not have been the first time). (more…)

Following on my post the other day about courts ordering the release of “private” data about net usage, an interesting case in point is a decision of the Dutch Supreme Court in late November, which ordered Lycos to reveal the identity of a user of one of its websites who had anonymously posted slanderous (or potentially slanderous) allegations against a postage stamp dealer. (more…)

The New York Times has a story on the use of data held by internet companies in court. I don’t think it’s actually all that new a story; it’s more of a ‘lawyers are finally starting to catch up with the net’ story, in the same way you would have had a story about lawyers coming to terms with fax technology 20 years ago. (more…)

The Attorney-General announced yesterday that the Australian Law Reform Commission will review the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). The ALRC press release is here. The reference to the ALRC follows the recommendations of two other, briefer reviews which reported in mid-2005. While you might ask why we need another review after those two, the advantages I think are twofold: (1) it is the ALRC, which does ‘active’ review (it doesn’t just wait for submissions), and (2) the terms of reference are pretty broad. (more…)

The Canadian Globe and Mail has a story on how a UK court ordered parts of an unauthorised biography of singer Loreena McKennitt to be deleted. (more…)

Adam Cohen has published an interesting, and critical, opinion piece on Google in The New York Times, focusing on privacy issues raised by the company’s technology and services.

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