page highlights Australian and overseas privacy/data protection
commissions and other government agencies concerned with
It covers -
The shape of national and state/provincial privacy
agencies within governments reflects the legislation in
each jurisdiction. More broadly it reflects the extent
to which competition policy, consumer protection, medical
services or other agencies had embraced privacy concerns
prior to the 1980s or 1990s when discrete privacy enactments
were established in many advanced economies.
Typically, national regimes feature -
privacy agency (often headed by a privacy commissioner
and located within the justice ministry) concerned with
application of the major legislation.
health services, medical research and other science
bodies with a narrower ambit regarding research protocols
(eg Australia's National Health & Medical Research
Council) or privacy relating to medical services
concerned with taxation, census & statistics or
other government activities that impinge on privacy
and administer legislation that features provisions
for protection of privacy specific to those activities
concerned with private sector data collection and handling,
in particular agencies concerned with trade practices
and consumer protection.
At the international level the major body is the Organization
for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD).
Arguably it has been more significant in driving privacy
policy development than the United Nations, despite rhetoric
in the latter organisation regarding privacy as a fundamental
human right (eg at the December 2003 World Summit on the
Information Society) and commitments such as the 1948
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In contrast to the European Union, where business
and government are actively implementing the EU Privacy
Directive, and North America (where debate about privacy
principles and practice is a major feature of discussion
about how to keep on the crest of the digital wave) Australia
still seems to be lost at sea when it comes to dealing
with privacy in an online world.
In Australia the Commonwealth Privacy
Commissioner, criticised for an apparent reluctance
to facilitate a national policy that accommodates the
concerns of our trading partners and that is not left
behind, with only one paddle, by initiatives within NSW
and other states. Nearly three years after the first
announcement, the Government is moving to establish the
Commissioner as an agency independent of the Human Rights
& Equal Opportunity Commission.
The National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE)
provides a small number of links to privacy sites and
The New Zealand Privacy
Commissioner is an independent statutory body. Its
site provides information about the New Zealand legislation
- considerably more advanced than the Australian equivalent
- and practice in the shaky isles and overseas.
The European Commission's Directorate
on Data Protection offers a point of entry into the maze
The UK Data Protection Commissioner (DPC)
operates under the 1984 Data Protection Act,
undergoing large-scale amendment to reflect recent EU
decisions. The EU Commission's privacy site includes links
to other privacy/data protection agencies within
Three starting points for government information are
Trade Commission (FTC)
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
US National Telecommunications & Information Administration
perspective on the FTC's activity is provided by Stephen
Hechter's 2000 paper (PDF)
The FTC as Internet Privacy Norm Entrepreneur.
The Advisory Committee on Online Access & Security
of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
released a 220 page Privacy Online: Fair Information
Practices in the Electronic Marketplace report
on consumer access to information collected by commercial
websites and the security of that information.
Coming after a spate of privacy breaches by bodies such
as CDNow, DoubleClick, Amazon, and RealNetworks, it reflected
the FTC's 1998 Privacy Online and 1999 Self-Regulation
reports to Congress.
Transcripts from the 1999 FTC workshop
on online profiling are available. The NTIA produced a
Paper on Privacy & the National Information
In Canada the major agency is the federal Office of
the Privacy Commissioner (OPC).
Its site includes the federal legislation and reports.
The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC)
has a more restricted ambit, dealing with complaints from
people who believe they have been denied rights under
the Access to Information Act, described in our censorship
Most provinces have privacy commissioners. One of the
more activist is the Ontario Information & Privacy
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Private Data
(PCO) is here
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