The NSW parliament’s law and justice committee has begun a fresh inquiry into the long-debated need for legal measures that would let Australians sue over serious breaches of their privacy.
Committee chair and Liberal MLC Natasha MacLaren-Jones will lead the six-member panel to revisit the need for specific legal remedies that can be applied against other individuals when it comes to invasions of personal privacy.
Existing privacy laws - at both state and federal level - only protect the data of Australians as held by large businesses and other organisations.
In a statement today, MacLaren-Jones said social media and surveillance technologies were the primary drivers behind the inquiry.
“The proliferation of social media has meant that invasions of privacy through online forums, such as the alarming trend of jilted lovers posting sexually explicit photographs of ex-partners on the internet, has immediate and vast-reaching repercussions," she said.
“Privacy is also being impacted by other new technologies, such as increasingly affordable surveillance drones which fly overhead and can film people in their backyards and on private property."
She told iTnews the committee would look into a number of suggested shortcomings with existing ‘breach of confidence’ provisions in NSW legislation, which do not provide any recourse for a victim to claim compensation over emotional stress and resulting financial loss.
She said there was also no provision to have offending information taken down from online sources like social media.
“There is a heightened interest right now in making sure our laws are up to date,” she said.
Committee members will have no shortage of material to work from, with much the same debate investigated by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2014, the Victorian Law Reform Commission in 2010, and the NSW Law Reform Commission in 2009.
All reports recommended the creation of a statutory cause of action in cases of serious privacy breaches.
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis is yet to respond to the ALRC’s report, which was handed to his office in June last year.
MacLaren-Jones said the Commonwealth's delayed response had not impacted the NSW parliament's own inquiry.
She told iTnews the committee would consider whether uniform national laws would be favourable as a national privacy protection, or whether state-based statutes could suffice.
The committee is calling for submissions from the legal profession and other interested parties until September 4, with hearings to take place later in the year.