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Roger Clarke's 'Privacy and the Media'

Privacy and the Media - The Platform for Change

Abstract of 14 October 2011, rev. 8 January 2012

Accepted for Presentation at the Surveillance and/in Everyday Life Conference, University of Sydney, 20-21 February 2012

Roger Clarke **

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A free press is both a critical feature of a free society and a threat to privacy. For decades, the media have successfully avoided meaningful regulatory mechanisms, through a combination of corporate muscle and the promise of self-regulation.

The News of the World revelations have weakened the Murdoch empire, and emboldened politicians in Australia as much as in the UK. Calls for institutional and process reformation to achieve more appropriate balances have risen to a crescendo.

This paper chronicles the key events since 2007, commencing with the work of three Law Reform Commission and the 'Australia's Right To Know' Coalition initiative and the privacy sideshow it contained. In 2009, the Australian Privacy Foundation published specific proposals aimed at an enhanced self-regulatory regime. Discussions with News Limited, Media Alliance, the ABC, the Australian Press Council and university research centres were all fruitless. A mailing to the complete list of Professors of Journalism resulted in a couple of acknowledgements of receipt.

Yet, two years later, the Government is canvassing a civil right of action that would apply to the media as it would to everyone else, an independent review of the media has been conducted, and the Press Council and the Australian Communications and Media Authority have both hurriedly undertaken reviews of their codes and processes. The highly-politicised News Ltd flagship, 'The Australian', responded to the possibility of a statutory tort with a feral assault; but it is unclear whether it has retained sufficient credibility to determine the result.

The current hive of activity has arisen not through reasoned policy processes, but because of a succession of high-profile breaches, primarily within Australia but helped by the UK scandal, which have been reinforced by statements by public figures such as Paul Keating and Richard Ackland.

A recapitulation of the sequence of activities enables the key issues to be unfolded, and the key players identified. An assessment is provided of the prospects of a constructive outcome.


1. Introduction


2. Background


3. Body


X. Conclusions






Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., and a Visiting Professor in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

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Created: 14 October 2011 - Last Amended: 8 January 2012 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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