Cyberprivacy: Is it possible?

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The release of a draft cybercrime code of practice by the Internet Industry Association is another move to figure out a way to tread the fine line between protecting individuals' privacy and the need by organisations and government bodies to access information.

In releasing the code, Peter Coroneos--chief executive at the Internet Industry Association (IIA)--said that it had tried to protect the balance between protecting privacy, with allowing Internet Service Providers to cooperate with law enforcement investigations.

The IIA sees the code as operational guidelines to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to assist law enforcement agencies, while still retaining the sanctity of individual's privacy.

The emphasis on how much--and in what circumstances--individuals have a right to privacy is becoming a hot issue both internationally and within Australia.

Leif Gamertsfelder, senior associate in the digital industries group at law firm Deacons, said that a changing global and local environment had impacted views on privacy. 'Privacy is a fundamental right that people in society are demanding more protection for,' Gamertsfelder said.

Gamertsfelder spoke with iTnews today about the impact a recent Queensland decision had on privacy law in Australia.

He believes that the decision in Grosse v Purvis could be a catalyst for a significant extension to Australian privacy rights, and that it could potentially be applied to a wide range of conduct that raises privacy issues. Gamertsfelder cited cyberstalking, spamming, and overt or covert surveillance by employers or other organisations as examples.

'Certainly it's been a struggle for many people to come up with a civil action where hacking or cyberstalking, or that kind of activity, is being conducted,' he said.

Gamertsfelder added that increased emphasis on the right to privacy was tracking with the general trend overseas, in countries such as the US and the UK.

He believes that if the new right established in the Queensland case were taken further, it could become a more attractive legal option to people than taking action under the Federal Privacy Act.

David Bernie, vice president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said that while it didn't want privacy rights--such as the right to freedom of expression--removed, it saw the current privacy legislation in Australia as fairly weak.

Bernie said that one area it had concerns about was the potential for federal security agencies to access people's computers without them ever knowing about it. He said that it wasn't against the idea of search warrants but, rather, more insidious forms of surveillance.

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