The government has decided to review the Privacy Act for the 3rd time. The committee reviewing the Act is composed entirely of politicians. Needless to say, I don’t have high hopes for any beneficial outcomes (for the general public).
Even if the politicians actually did make a beneficial change, what do we gain. If you don’t implement the Privacy Act, it is nothing but useless writing on paper. As we have seen, the government seems to be one of the worst organizations for ignoring the Act. When I first asked questions about privacy at the hospitals, the hospitals had not brought themselves into conformity with the Act, even though the Privacy Act had been in effect for 13 years. When I made phone calls to the hospitals inquiring about the Privacy Act, the people I spoke to had no idea what I was talking about. I was asked what I meant by the Privacy Act, what was the Privacy Act, what is a Privacy officer, etc. These were front line people dealing with the public. So, if after 13 years, hospital staff had no idea what the Privacy Act was, how could they be expected to implement it, to protect our privacy.
Have you walked into a retail store, or an insurance office, etc. and been asked questions? If you ask them why they need this information, do you get a straight forward answer, as is your right under the Privacy Act. Or, do you get answers such as “the computer needs it”, “everyone asks these questions”, “I don’t know so just answer it otherwise I won’t sell you the product”? In most cases, you have to be very persistent to get a real answer; in some cases even that doesn’t work. Most people (general public) aren’t that knowledgeable regarding the Privacy Act and/or assertive. And those who are, I suspect often get tired of the fight or, like me, just try to minimize buying anything new. So, the end result is that people’s privacy rights are not respected or protected because the Privacy Act is, for the most part, not enforced.
I find it ironic that the politicians will be commemorating Remembrance Day, commemorating the people who fought and died for our rights (including our right to privacy), while they make a mockery of those rights.
I continue to receive threats, some subtle and some not so subtle, while handing out information in front of St. Paul’s. For example, I was told that if I came back again I would be given something to be really concerned about (I have been back since). I was told by another person that people who do what I do (peacefully exercise my democratic right to hand out information) “often go missing”. I will not be out as much during the winter months but if I am not in front of St. Paul’s for any length of time — I may have gone missing. This is our democracy.