Privacy Commissioner to boost technical resources

Adding staff to cope with IT-related privacy concerns

The Privacy Commissioner’s office is seeking two specialist staffers to assist with technically complex matters such as those involving complaints of privacy invasion through ICT.

Advertisements will be placed in the next three to four weeks, says a spokeswoman. Timing of the appointments will depend on the speed of the process and the appointees’ other commitments and no definite date can be given, she says.

In an interview last year, Commissioner Marie Shroff highlighted a number of technical matters involving IT that are likely to become privacy concerns in the near to medium future. These include electronic “digital rights management” facilities such as those in Microsoft’s forthcoming operating system releases and the potential for radio frequency identification devices to track purchases in the street (Computerworld, November 10, 2003). She said at the time that although she had one staffer with useful technical experience, more could be needed.

One of the minor matters that the new team could explore is the implication for privacy of Internal Affairs inspectors’ covert scanning of files being exchanged on peer-to-peer services (Computerworld Forum, July 12, 2004). However, if this is done, it will be as a commissioner-initiated inquiry, not a response to a complaint.

This reporter notified the matter to the commissioner due to the danger of inadvertent incrimination through mistaken downloading of a misnamed objectionable file quickly picked up by an inspector. However, according to the spokeswoman, this does not meet the threshold of “harm” necessary for a complaint to be actioned.

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