New Australian Privacy Principles, the World Bank Open Access event materials, and other news

Global news

  • World Bank Open Access event materials
  • UK Open Data Institute launched
  • European Commission announces its Google investigation concerns

Local news

  • New Australian Privacy Principles


World Bank Open Access event materials

The liveblog and video archive from the World Bank Open Access event are now available here. This includes useful answers to the public’s questions about the workings of the World Bank’s Open Access Policy and Repository and generally about the benefits of open access. Discussion continues on Twitter @WBPubs.

An unofficial summary of the proceedings can be viewed here. The event tied into the ongoing push for all scholarly research to be available for free online in a text-mineable form. The Guardian published an article on the need for publishers to enable text mining this week and this has also been a popular topic for discussion on the OKFN Open Access mailing list and Open Science mailing list.


UK Open Data Institute

The UK Open Data Institute has been launched with an aim to establish a leading centre to nurture and promote new exploitations of open data and mentor new businesses who wish to exploit open data for innovation and economic growth. The Institute’s Implementation Plan and Business Plan have been published on their website along with a presentation by Nigel Shadbolt and Tim Berners-Lee about open data and the Institute’s planned operations.


The Google investigation

The European Commission has released an announcement about its investigation into Google’s business practices. The concerns identified were the following:

  • Manipulation of search results in favour of Google’s own services;
  • Copying of content from competitors’ websites; and
  • Google AdWords exclusivity agreements and restrictions on portability, which prevent content from advertisements on Google being used on other platforms.

The European Commission has requested that Google present an outline of remedies to address these concerns in a matter of weeks. This response raises a question for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as to how problematic the above issues are for competition in Australia given Google’s market share in Australia.

An Australian investigation into Google’s practices would follow the ACCC’s finding from earlier this year that Google had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct. The misleading conduct in that case involved publishing advertisements on Google’s search results page that used a business or product name of a competitor’s business but the headline actually linked to an advertiser’s website which the business was not affiliated with. The ACCC’s summary of this decision can be found here.


New Australian Privacy Principles

The Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 (Cth) (available here) was introduced into Parliament on 23 May. The Bill represents the first stage of the Government’s implementation of many of the recommendations set out in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report ‘For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice’.

In the second reading speech, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon pointed out that “[i]n an online world, we are increasingly sharing our personal information on social networking sites and paying our bills and buying footy tickets over the internet.” The changes aim to better protect personal information, simplify credit reporting arrangements, and introduce new enforcement powers for the Privacy Commissioner to conduct investigations and promote compliance. It will require some organisations to modify their privacy policies to include information such as whether the organisation is likely to disclose personal information overseas.

The Bill introduces into the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) the new Australian Privacy Principles, which are set out in five parts:

  1. Principles that require entities to consider the privacy of personal information and manage personal information in an open way. For example, individuals must have the option of dealing with an organisation anonymously wherever practicable.
  2. Principles that deal with the collection of solicited and unsolicited personal information. For example, when an entity collects personal information, it must make the individual aware of how and why the personal information will be collected and how the information will be dealt with.
  3. Principles which set out the circumstances in which entities may use or disclose personal information and government related identifiers. These principles will also tighten regulation of direct marketing and disclosure of personal information outside Australia and afford more protection to sensitive information including biometric data.
  4. Principles about the integrity, quality, and security of personal information. For example, entities must take steps which are reasonable in the circumstances to protect personal information from misuse, interference, and loss. ‘Interference’ would include an attack on a computer system.
  5. Principles that make it easier for consumers to access personal information and request correction of that information.

Several definitions in s 6(1) of the Privacy Act would also be updated:

  • ‘Personal information’ would be updated to implement the ALRC’s Recommendation, bring the definition in line with international standards, and ensure the definition is flexible and technology-neutral. ‘Personal information’ is defined in the Bill as “information or an opinion about an identified individual or an individual who is reasonably identifiable whether  the information or opinion is true or not and whether the information or opinion is recorded in a material form or not.” The Government has encouraged the development of guidelines on the meaning of ‘identified or reasonably identifiable.’
  • ‘Record’ would be amended to include a reference to “an electronic or other device” to ensure the definition can encompass new methods of information storage in the future.
  • ‘Generally available publication’ would be modified to state that a publication is ‘generally available’ even if payment of a fee is required to access it and this can include material available electronically.

Subsection 5B(3) of the Privacy Act would also be amended to clarify that the Privacy Act can operate extra-territorially if the organisation has “an Australian link”. The Explanatory Memorandum state that an organisation which collects information from an individual physically located in Australia via a website hosted outside of Australia and owned by a foreign corporation would be included. Entities with an online presence in Australia who collect personal information from people who are physically in Australia carry on a business in Australia.

The second stage will proceed when the first stage reforms have progressed further. This second stage will cover issues such as the clarification of exemptions from the Privacy Act and a scheme for compulsory notification of serious breaches.



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