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section heading icon     landmarks of privacy and data protection law

This page offers a basic chronology of key developments in privacy law and practice.

It covers -

It is supplemented by a more detailed timeline of development at the national and state/territory levels in Australia and New Zealand here, a chronology regarding the Australia Card and other Australian national identifier schemes and a chronology of biometrics development.

Context is provided by the general timeline about communications, finance and media technology.

section marker icon     before the UDHR

1787 Bentham's Panopticon Letters

1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man

1794 Thomas Percival's Medical Jurisprudence; or, A Code of Ethics and Institutes Adapted to the Professions of Physic and Surgery

1803 Percival's Medical Ethics

1847 American Medical Association Code of Ethics

1888 Cooley on Torts articulates privacy as "the right to be left alone"

1890 Harvard Law Review features article by Samuel Warren & Brandeis on 'The Right to Privacy'

1893 successful claim, in Corliss v Walker, that US federal recognition of a right to privacy would restrict freedom of the press

1901 Commonwealth of Australia established - privacy not featured in federal Constitution

1905 Pavesich v New England Life is first ruling by US state court to recognise right to privacy

1914 Commonwealth Crimes Act 1914

1930 Brandeis echoes Cooley in highlighting "right to be let alone" in Olmstead v US

1937 decision by High Court in Victoria Park Racing v Taylor that there are no property rights in a 'spectacle'

section marker icon     the UDHR

1948 adoption by UN of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

1948 National Health Service Number adopted in UK

1948 World Medical Association's Declaration of Geneva oath

1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights & Fundamental Freedoms

1958 NAACP v. Alabama ex. Rel. Patterson [US]

1960 Commonwealth Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act

1965 Griswold v Connecticut identifies latent right of sexual privacy within US Constitution

1966 International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights

1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights

1967 Time v Hill in US

1969 listening device legislation passed in Victoria and NSW

1970 French law indicates that "each person has the right to the respect of his private life"

1971 Invasion of Privacy Act in Queensland

1971 Information Storage Bill in Victoria

1971 federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in US

section marker icon     US, Canadian and EU govt privacy regimes

1972 Younger Committee on Privacy - UK

1973 Council of Europe Resolution on Data Protection establishes principles of data protection for the private sector

1973 Swedish Data Act

1973 Morison report into Privacy - NSW

1973 Human Rights Bill introduced in Senate but lapses with 1974 Double Dissolution

1974 Council of Europe Resolution on Data Protection establishes principles of data protection for the public sector

1974 US federal Privacy Act (here)

1974 Canadian federal Protection of Privacy Act

1975 Fair Credit Reports Act in South Australia

1975 Cox Broadcasting v Cohn in US

1975 Privacy Committee Act 1975 in NSW

1976 Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) directed to report on privacy

1976 Mann Committee reports on Privacy & Data Protection in Western Australia

1977 McGregor Report (Royal Commission on the Press) - UK

1977 Data Protection Act in Germany

1978 Listening Devices Act 1978 in Western Australia

1978 Credit Reporting Act in Victoria

1978 Canadian Human Rights Act

1978 Lindop Committee on Data Protection - UK

1979 ALRC report on Unfair publication: defamation & privacy

1979 ALRC report on Privacy & the Census

1979 Commonwealth Telecommunications (Interception) Act

section marker icon     OECD Guidelines

1980 OECD Guidelines on Data Privacy Protection & Transborder Data Flows

1981 EU Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Automatic Processing of Personal Data

1982 Canadian federal Privacy Act and Access to Information Act

1982 Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act 1982

1983 ALRC report on Privacy

1983 Commonwealth Archives Act 1983

1984 Privacy Committee Act in Queensland

1984 Listening Devices Act 1984 in New South Wales

1984 Federal Government adopts OECD guidelines

1986 Australia Card debate

1986 Commonwealth Privacy Bill proposed but abandoned

1986 Australia Card proposed

1987 Australian Privacy Foundation established

section marker icon     Australian legislation

1988 Commonwealth Privacy Act passed, regulating most federal public sector agencies

1988 Australian Tax File Number (TFN) introduced

1988 Commonwealth Cash Transactions Report Act 1988 (later Financial Transaction Reports Act (FTR)

1988 Data Protection Bill in Western Australia

1989 Privacy Committee established in South Australia

1989 NSW Freedom of Information Act 1989

1990 NSW Adoption Information Act 1990

1990 Calcutt Committee on Privacy - UK

1990 Federal Data Protection Act in Germany

1990 Queensland's Privacy Committee Act 1984 amended and extended for a year

1990 Bill of Rights Act 1990 in New Zealand

1991 Privacy Bill introduced in South Australia

1991 Review of Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979

1991 Listening Devices Act 1991 in Tasmania

1992 Amendments relating to credit reporting made to the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988

1993 Calcutt Review of Press Self-Regulation report - UK

1993 National Heritage Select Committee on Privacy & Media Intrusion report - UK

1993 UK Lord Chancellor's Department report on Infringement of Privacy

1993 Privacy Act 1993 in New Zealand

1994 Australian Privacy Charter Council formed

1994 Alana Shears v Epson America (US)

1994 NSW Privacy & Data Protection Bill introduced but lapses

section marker icon     in the data network era

1995 EU Data Protection Directive

1995 report on privacy by Commonwealth Parliament House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal & Constitutional Affairs

1995 NSW Privacy Committee releases Invisible Eyes report on video surveillance in the workplace

1996 US federal Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act

1997 public inquiry on privacy issues conducted by Federal Privacy Commissioner

1997 Council of Europe Recommendation on the Protection of Medical Data

1997 US v Charbonneau (US)

1997 EU 'Telecommunications' Directive Concerning the Processing of Personal Data & the Protection of Privacy in the Telecommunications Sector

1998 Australian National Principles for the Fair Handling of Personal Information (voluntary code of regulation for the private sector) established by the Federal Privacy Commissioner

1998 OECD Ministerial Declaration on the Protection of Privacy on Global Networks

1998 UK Data Protection Act 1998

1998 ACT Health Records (Privacy & Access) Act came into force

1998 Privacy & Personal Information Act in NSW passes

1998 Data Protection Bill in Victoria (later named the Information Privacy Act)

1998 Surveillance Devices Act in Western Australia

1999 Workplace Video Surveillance Act in NSW

1999 US v Hambrick (US)

1999 Commonwealth Attorney-General releases draft provisions of proposed new privacy legislation

1999 Los Angeles Police Dept v United Reporting (US)

2000 commencement of Surveillance Devices Act 1999 in Victoria

2000 Commonwealth Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Bill passed

2000 EU submission to House of Representatives Committee indicates that Australian Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Bill would not meet EU's test of "adequacy"

2000 Information Privacy Act in Victoria passed

2000 Information Privacy Act in Queensland lapses

2000 Protected Disclosures Act in New Zealand

2001 Federal Privacy Commissioner releases draft code development guidelines

section marker icon     9/11 and the networked surveillance state

2001 Additional Protocol to the EU Data Protection Directive

2001 Canadian federal Personal Information Protection & Electronic Documents Act (PIPED) comes into effect

2001 Health Records Act in Victoria passed

2001 Paul Chadwick appointed as Victoria's first Privacy Commission

2001 Tasmania and Western Australia commence drafting privacy legislation

2001 Information Privacy Act in Victoria comes into effect

2001 Australian Parliament report on Cookie Monsters? Privacy in the Information Society

2001 new federal regime comes into effect in Australia

2002 Health Records Act in Victoria comes into effect

2002 Commonwealth Privacy Act extends to some small businesses

2002 US Total Information Awareness (TIA) program

2003 Lawrence v Texas decision by US Supreme Court

2003 Grosse v Purvis ruling by Qld District Court in successful suit for tort of privacy

2004 European Court of Human Rights rules in favour of Princess Caroline of Monaco against paparazzi

2004 Surveillance Devices Act in Australia

2007 ALRC Privacy Review discussion paper in Australia

2008 Mosley v News Group Newspapers [UK]


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version of August 2008
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