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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Mandarin: Government "sees little value" in OAIC

 The Mandarin (subscription)
Last Thursday, Attorney-General George Brandis confirmed once again that the current government sees little value in the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, which oversees both freedom of information and privacy. In announcing Timothy Pilgrim’s re-appointment as privacy commissioner, Brandis confirmed Pilgrim is now also the permanent Information Commissioner, a role he has acted in since July 2015. The announcement confirms the current government has no intention to appoint two separate commissioners, as the office was originally intended to have. Brandis gave no indication he intends to appoint anyone as FOI Commissioner, leaving the third post in the OAIC still vacant for the time being....
On a related topic, The Mandarin reports
University of Melbourne data and privacy researcher Dr Suelette Dreyfus...sees an inconsistency in the attitudes of politicians and public servants to privacy in different contexts. In FOI releases, public servants display a very strict attitude towards privacy, making sure that the names of public servants and other stakeholders mentioned in the documents are blacked out wherever allowed by the FOI legislation.But when it comes to the collection, linkage, sharing, analysis and publication of large amounts of data — which can no doubt provide significant public value — the attitude is often more risk-based and dismissive of concerns as being overblown. Public servants might believe the public value of open data and metadata retention outweighs privacy concerns in specific cases or in general, but the point is they must convince citizens. She also sees a major imbalance with the way governments work with big data — and the large amount of communications metadata government agencies want to access — versus the amount of information it is prepared to release under FOI. "Government’s intrusiveness into the citizen’s privacy has become very pervasive but the citizen’s ability to call government to account through FOI is miniscule in the amount of information that can be gleaned from that,” Dreyfus said

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