Generally available publications

6.150 The definition of ‘record’in the Privacy Act excludes a range of things such as items kept in libraries, art galleries or museums for reference, study or exhibition; a range of Commonwealth archival records, including those in the open access period; documents in the memorial collection of the Australian War Memorial and letters and other articles in the course of transmission by post. There were very few concerns raised with these elements of the definition, although Australia Post noted the importance of the exclusion of postal articles.[160] The ALRC does not recommend any changes to these elements.

6.151 The definition of ‘record’ in the Privacy Act also excludes ‘generally available publications’—that is, ‘a magazine, book, newspaper or other publication (however published) that is or will be generally available to members of the public’. It is important to note, however, that the collection of personal information for inclusion in a generallyavailablepublication is regulated by the privacy principles.[161]

6.152 The OPC commented in its submission that:

The Office notes that the phrase ‘generally available publication’ may appear to apply only to publications that do not involve fees for access. However, access to generally available publications is not necessarily free. For example, the National Insolvency Index is accessible only by subscribers who pay to view the Index.

For this reason, the Office believes that the definition would benefit from the clarification that a generally available publication is generally available even where payment of a fee is necessary to access the information.[162]

6.153 In DP 72, the ALRC proposed that the definition of ‘generally available publication’ be amended to clarify that a publication is ‘generally available’ whether or not a fee is charged for access to the publication.

Submissions and consultations

6.154 A number of stakeholders expressed support for this proposal.[163] The Queensland Government noted that it has always considered a publication to be generally available under Information Standard 42[164]—which regulates the handling of personal information in the Queensland public sector—whether or not a fee was payable.[165]

ALRC’s view

6.155 The ALRC notes that a great number of generally available publications are only available for a fee, including those expressly included in the current definition such as books and magazines. The ALRC sees merit in clarifying that a publication is ‘generally available’ whether or not a fee is charged for access to the publication.

Recommendation 6–7 The definition of ‘generally available publication’ in the Privacy Act should be amended to clarify that a publication is ‘generally available’ whether or not a fee is charged for access to the publication.

[160] Australia Post, Submission PR 445, 10 December 2007.

[161]Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) ss 14, 16B.

[162] Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Submission PR 215, 28 February 2007.

[163] Australian Bankers’ Association Inc, Submission PR 567, 11 February 2008; Australian Privacy Foundation, Submission PR 553, 2 January 2008; Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Submission PR 548, 26 December 2007; Australian Government Department of Human Services, Submission PR 541, 21 December 2007; GE Money Australia, Submission PR 537, 21 December 2007; Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Submission PR 499, 20 December 2007; Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner, Submission PR 493, 19 December 2007; Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre UNSW, Submission PR 487, 19 December 2007; Privacy NSW, Submission PR 468, 14 December 2007; Telstra Corporation Limited, Submission PR 459, 11 December 2007; National Health and Medical Research Council, Submission PR 397, 7 December 2007.

[164] Queensland Government, Information Standard 42—Information Privacy (2001).

[165] Queensland Government, Submission PR 490, 19 December 2007.