Published on 30 July 2013.

The Australian Law Reform Commission welcomes the appointment by the Federal Attorney-General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP, of Professor Barbara McDonald as a Commissioner to lead the ALRC’s recently announced Inquiry into Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era.

Professor McDonald is a Professor of Law at the University of Sydney with 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 for this Inquiry ask the ALRC to review the issue of the prevention of, and remedies for, serious invasions of privacy in the digital era, having regard to a number of factors 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; and relevant international standards and the desirability of consistency in laws affecting national and transnational data flows.

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher stated, “I am delighted to welcome Professor MacDonald to the ALRC. We have been asked to consider innovative ways in which law may reduce serious invasions of privacy in the context of an increasingly pervasive digital environment. And it is not just about a statutory cause of action—something the ALRC recommended in our Privacy Report in 2008—but other appropriate legal remedies to redress serious invasions of privacy. Most importantly we are to consider the necessity of balancing the value of privacy with other fundamental values including freedom of expression and open justice. With Professor MacDonald’s background in litigation, tort and media law, she will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to our deliberations.”

The ALRC expects to release a first consultation paper for this Inquiry towards the end of September. The ALRC must provide its final report to the Attorney-General by 30 June 2014.

Further information about the ALRC’s inquiry work can be found at www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries.

Subscribe to the Privacy Inquiry on the ALRC website.