Mar 18, 2014

Private, keep out: how to safeguard your personal information

New laws are being celebrated as a win for privacy, but are they all they're cracked up to be? Crikey found it a monumental challenge to raid the supposedly open database.

Cathy Alexander ā€” Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

We all have greater rights to privacy under laws that took effect last week, a change greeted with media fanfare as a victory for the individual against telemarketers and intrusive companies. But Crikey has found the new laws may not be all they seem.

The change comes via a new set of Australian Privacy Principles (APPs), which give greater rights to privacy in relation to personal information — who collects it and what they can use it for. Sounds good; you could use the APPs to stop unwanted marketing or find out what Centrelink or Telstra has on file about you. The laws apply to all federal government agencies and all medium and large businesses. The Privacy Commissioner can fine agencies that don’t obey.

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7 thoughts on “Private, keep out: how to safeguard your personal information

  1. Dennis Bauer

    In other words there useless to most of the lower class Australian Population another case of laws for some and not for others really.

  2. Salamander

    We have dropped the ball. Our Eternal Vigilance has been switched off. The Barbarians have smashed the gate, and we are in deep doggy doo.

  3. condel

    The more information they collect the more useless they become. Crikey should start a campaign that we all send The AUst government, ASIO, WhiteHouse, CIA and Pentagon a big slab of an email – just Cut and Paste any crap from wikedia. that way you can send their word search system into Mayhem. ‘wateste their time and resources’.

    From kiosks, cafe, nui etc send real important information – thats 5 years old.

    Lean to do it in Chinese – “the Chinese Cyber Hacher Mythology”

  4. AR

    Apart from knowing our tastes & secret vices in minute detail by super chewing data matching, there is only one defence against it, else all modern practice would cease.
    An individual must have instant access 25/8 to see everything compiled on them/
    The truth of the information is bad enough but a greater danger is the weaving in of incorrect information.
    Not that They know more about you than you know yourself – that horse meandered off long ago – but when you are adversely affected by error.
    All government data is classified according to the Admirality rating aystem, A-F/1-6 in which 100% correct is A1 being known directly by the reporting officer to C3 heard 2nd hand, provence unverifiable to F6 which should be the stuff one throws under the wheels when bogged.
    The populace would burn down the Bastille if the knew how much data in C3 or lower and this is what is being used to decide how to deal with you.

  5. Cathy Alexander

    That’s really interesting AR. I didn’t know about the government’s information classification system. Maybe you could tell us more in the comment stream here or email me on [email protected] .

    The new APPs 10 and 13 relate to the accuracy of personal information, but Arnold told me they would make little difference – they are not tough enough. A focus instead on taking ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure accuracy and correct errors, with the definition of reasonable left up to the Gods.

    See those APPs here

    But I think you’ll find they’ll do little or nothing to address the concerns you raise about the amount of C3 and lower information that is kept on us …

  6. Dogs breakfast

    “An agency can only collect personal information in certain circumstances”

    What a farce. Every single website already collects virtually instantaneous information about what websites I visit, what I click on, when I’m on it, etc, and as pointed out by others, there are so few limitations on them joining the dots to work out that is a person who happens to be male of a mature age that lives at my ip address which can be sourced to a particular physical address and guess what, they have me on toast.

    Is there an argument that suggests that what I do on the internet is NOT PRIVATE information?

    And that’s just the internet. Why do I have to provide my phone number and email address for even the most trivial business transaction these days? Want to buy a lollipop? “I’ll need your email address and phone number, Sir.”

    That, is an invasion of my privacy, as is the need for me to provide my personal details to buy a freaking phone.

    As suggested above, we long since became a police and business surveillance state, and I can only see this being used for what ultimately become anti-social means. This is worse than Big Brother, because it is more insidious, and they deny its existence.

  7. Cathy Alexander

    Good point Dogs breakfast. I am really surprised at how often, when making a simple transaction, I’m asked for my phone number, street address and email address (want to make an appointment for a haircut? want to buy something? want to become a member of something as you try to simply buy something?).

    I suspect this is for marketing, although if asked the staff member will often say ‘oh we need that information to confirm the booking / identify you’.

    I have taken to giving a fake email address and street address. PG Wodehouse would have Bertie say ‘the laurels, Welwyn Garden City’ and I find that works well.

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