Telemarketing, information privacy top community concerns

Monday, 5 June 2006: Three out of four callers to a National Phone-in have nominated unsolicited telemarketing as their number one privacy complaint, said the ALRC.

About 1,300 people took part in the two-day phone-in last week to share their views, concerns and experiences of privacy protection.

“An overwhelming majority of callers were unhappy with the number and the timing of calls they received from telemarketers,” said ALRC President Professor David Weisbrot.

“Some older people struggled to get to the phone only to find it was an unwanted call. People with privately listed phone numbers were concerned about how organisations obtained their details. And shift workers complained of being constantly interrupted while they tried to sleep.

“People face a barrage of information, emails and messages all day. They want their home to be a sanctuary and see telemarketing calls as an unwanted intrusion into their private life.”

A large number of callers also raised concerns about how private sector organisations and government agencies stored and shared their personal information.

“People said they wanted greater certainty that their personal details wouldn’t be passed on to different parts of a company or between government agencies without their permission. Others told us they found it difficult to gain access to their own files or to correct information that organisations held about them or a family member,” said Prof Weisbrot.

Other major privacy concerns included the security of personal information provided over the internet, access to electronic health records and surveillance in public places and at work.

ALRC Commissioner, Associate Professor Les McCrimmon, said the results of the Phone-In would help the ALRC determine priorities for its current inquiry into the federal Privacy Act.

“Rapid advances in information, communication and surveillance technologies have created a wide range of privacy issues that affect people on a daily basis.

“Our inquiry will look at what sorts of privacy protections are needed to address current problems. We’ll also try to anticipate emerging issues so that policy-makers are not left to play catch-up in response to new technologies,” said Assoc Prof McCrimmon.

As part of its review of federal privacy laws, the ALRC will talk with a wide range of stakeholders including community organisations, business and industry groups, government agencies, privacy advocates, academics and other interested members of the community.