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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Australian Govt. Continues to Weaken Privacy Oversight

Enforcement of the Privacy Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the Information Commissioner Act continued to erode in Australia, under the plan of the Liberal/National coalition government led by Tony Abbott to disband the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) as part of its "small government" agenda.  In mid-July, the government announced that Timothy Pilgrim, whose five-year term as Privacy Commissioner was about to expire, would move into the overarching position of Acting Information Commissioner for a period of three months. During this period the government is expected to enact legislation mandating the dissolution of the OAIC, with the future of the privacy oversight function remaining to be determined.

A palpable disinterest in privacy laws and enforcement is found in all three major Commonwealth nations, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, at least under the leadership of their current conservative-led coalition governments.  All have privacy laws on the books, inherited directly or indirectly from an earlier UK government's attempt to integrate itself with Europe, that they don't seem to know quite what to do with.  All are marching to the same national security drumbeat with respect to surveillance laws and powers.  Each in their own way demonstrate that the presence of privacy laws at the national level is no guarantee of a government's commitment to privacy protection.

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