Commissioner Appointed to the Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy in the Digital Era

Thursday 1 August 2013 @ 10.07 a.m. | IP & Media

Earlier this year the Federal Attorney-General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP announced his request for the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to carry out an inquiry into the protection of privacy in the digital era.


The inquiry follows up on consultations in 2008 by the ALRC, and responses to a 2011 Government discussion paper, both of which revealed little agreement on how a legal right to sue for breach of privacy should be created, or whether it should be created at all. 


Today, Professor Barbara McDonald was welcomed by the ALRC as a Commissioner to lead the Inquiry. Professor McDonald, a Professor of Law at the University of Sydney, has extensive experience in tort law, equity, remedies and media law, and has published widely in these areas. 

Speaking of her appointment to the ALRC, Professor McDonald said, “I am very honoured to be appointed to the Australian Law Reform Commission to work on this interesting, important and rapidly developing area of the law. I am fortunate that much work has already been done in Australia and overseas in the last few years, and that many people have commented on how the law should develop. There is clearly a community desire for legal protection of personal privacy, but any greater protection must co-exist with other aspects of our society that we value highly: freedom of speech, freedom of the press in its modern forms, effective and proper governance, national security and the openness of social communication that the digital age has allowed."

The Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry ask the ALRC to make recommendations regarding the prevention of, and remedies for, serious invasions of privacy in the digital era, having regard to various issues including:

  • the extent and application of existing privacy statutes;

  • the rapid growth in capabilities and use of information, surveillance and communication technologies;

  • community perceptions of privacy;

  • relevant international standards and the desirability of consistency in laws affecting national and transnational data flows.

“I am asking the Australian Law Reform Commission to consider this issue in light of changing conceptions of community privacy and rapid growth in information technology capabilities.” Mr Dreyfus said.
“The Government strongly believes in protecting the privacy of individuals, but this must be balanced against the Australian public’s right to freedom of communication and expression. New technologies and modes of communication that provide new opportunities to connect, collaborate and create also pose new privacy challenges. Our privacy laws need to address future challenges and ensure people can take action against a person or organisation that seriously violates their privacy,”

The ALRC anticipates a first consultation paper will be released near the end of September. The deadline for the ALRC to provide its final report to the Attorney-General is 30 June 2014.
The Government will carefully consider the ALRC’s findings before making a final decision.

Further information about the ALRC’s inquiry work can be found at
The Inquiry terms of reference are available here.

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