27 September 2005

NSW Workplace Surveillance Act. Good on yer Mates!

The Australians may no longer be quite what they were at cricket but they can certainly teach the rest of the world a thing or two about things that really matter, such as privacy and civil liberty. I am grateful to Baker & McKenzie's E-law highlights bulletin for alerting me to the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 which has recently received royal assent in the state of New South Wales.

This state statute requires employers to notify employees in advance of surveillance unless they obtain a covert surveillance order from a magistrate. The notice must
indicate:
(a) the kind of surveillance to be carried out (camera, computer or tracking), and
(b) how the surveillance will be carried out, and
(c) when the surveillance will start, and
(d) whether the surveillance will be continuous or intermittent, and
(e) whether the surveillance will be for a specified limited period or ongoing (s.10 (4)).

Certain places such as changing rooms and lavatories are off limits (s.15). There are also restrictions on blocking emails and internet access. There are exemptions for collective agreements and law enforcement.

On the same subject, the same E-law email mentions the 27th International Conference on Privacy and Personal Data Protection which took place at Montreux the week before last. One of the most interesting topics would have been "How can the requirements of data protection be reconciled with the fight against terrorism?" on Thursday, 15 September 2005 which had speakers from Ireland and Turkey. I looked in vain for speakers from our Home Office or Information Commissioner. Perhaps the Home Office was preoccupied in trying to cajole the rest of Europe to force the telecommunications industry into storing emails and mobile records for years and years at consumers' expense.

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