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Source: Government of Queensland

A re-elected Palaszczuk Government will seek to protect the privacy of Queenslanders with tougher, stronger laws to tackle the increasing pitfalls of the surveillance era.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said security cameras, digital recording devices and drones are impacting the privacy of so many Queenslanders now, and these impacts need to be better managed.

“Given the rapid pace at which surveillance technology is constantly evolving, the government will seek to legislate stronger privacy protections if re-elected,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“These technologies are here to stay but our current privacy laws need to be updated to better protect the privacy Queenslanders hold so dear.”

The privacy issues and challenges are outlined in a review to be released soon by the Queensland Law Reform Commission.

The QLRC’s Review of Queensland’s laws relating to civil surveillance and the protection of privacy in the context of current and emerging technologies makes a series of recommendations to protect and preserve Queenslanders’ privacy.

The report supports the on-going use of surveillance for legitimate purposes, including criminal deterrence and investigations.

However, it notes growing community concern and disquiet over the use of new technologies for all embracing, general surveillance purposes.

These include: –
• Use of CCTV cameras by individuals directed into their neighbours’ properties.
• The use by individuals, government agencies and corporations of recreational and commercial drones with advanced audio and optical recording capability.
• The use of a range of workplace surveillance to monitor employees.
• The use of technology to track and monitor people in domestic violence situations.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said there was a clear need for fare more comprehensive laws to protect the privacy of Queenslanders.

“Technology enhances and improves our quality of life in so many ways, but the downside is that it can also intrude on our privacy and has done so in so many instances.

“These technologies are certainly here to stay but our current privacy laws need to be updated to keep pace and better protect the right to privacy Queenslanders hold so dear,” Ms D’Ath said.

Currently, the Invasion of Privacy Act regulates the use of listening devices in limited circumstances only and, both the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act and the Surveillance Devices Act (CW) regulate the use of listening devices by law enforcement officers, and the need for warrants.

“The Palaszczuk Government has previously made changes to the criminal law involving egregious breach of privacy, for instance the offence of up skirting and distribution of intimate images provisions.

“However, they have limited applications and apply only in the most serious of circumstances.”

All other jurisdictions, other than Tasmania and the ACT, have replaced their listening devices legislation with surveillance device legislation, which includes a range of devices.

  • Listening devices.
  • Optical surveillance devices.
  • Tracking devices; and
  • (except in WA) data surveillance devices

That legislation also prohibits the communication or publication of surveillance information, with several exceptions such as where all parties consent.

The QLRC Report contains a draft bill which recommends several new components: –

  • Imposing criminal prohibitions on the use, installation and maintenance of surveillance devices subject to some exceptions such as consent of parties (60 penalty units or three years’ jail).
  • Imposing criminal prohibitions on the communication or publication of surveillance information, and possession of information (again 60 penalty units or 3 years’ jail).
  • Imposing a civil law obligation on a person who uses a surveillance device to not use it in such a way that it interferes with an individual’s surveillance privacy (where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy and has not consented). This will create a civil cause of action in the individual. They can seek to recover damages for misuse.
  • Creating a civil mechanism for resolving complaints about, and provide remedies for, alleged contravention of the basic principles.
  • Establishing a Surveillance Devices Commissioner and a Surveillance Devices Commission which will receive and deal with complaints.

Ms D’Ath said in cases of domestic violence, the criminal prohibition of tracking devices and data surveillance devices would be an important measure to reduce surveillance by former and current partners.

The QLRC’s review into workplace surveillance (due 30 April 2021) will also guide the development of the new laws.

The Attorney-General said the government would consult with stakeholders on the QLRC recommendations before drafting legislation.

The QLRC review will be published at https://www.qlrc.qld.gov.au/

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