ACT could lead way on privacy litigation
Attorney-General Mr Simon Corbell wants to introduce a statutory clause of action for privacy. Photo: Jay Cronan
The ACT could become the only Australian jurisdiction in which citizens can sue for breach of privacy.
Attorney-General Simon Corbell will announce today that if re-elected, ACT Labor will explore making a serious breach of privacy a ''statutory cause of action'', allowing people to pursue compensation payments through the courts.
The federal government is concerned about technologies like smart phones which allow images, sounds and other information to be recorded, stored and uploaded on to social media websites, posted on the internet, or distributed by email or instant messaging. The Commonwealth has published an issues paper on the problem, but Mr Corbell's proposal would be the first time an Australian jurisdiction has offered ''civil remedies'' for invasions of privacy.
While criminal laws already deal with the most serious invasion of privacy behaviour, there is no right to sue through the civil courts anywhere in Australia,
The territory's Human Rights Act provides the right to privacy but it is not legally enforceable and the public sector is covered by the Commonwealth's Privacy Act.
''The protection of privacy is also an element of ACT Labor's commitment to the progressive realisation of human rights in the ACT,'' Mr Corbell said. ''ACT Labor believes it would be desirable to look at introducing a statutory cause of action for privacy, something not yet covered in Australian jurisdictions. A statutory cause of action to protect against serious invasions of privacy would provide an additional remedy for breaches of privacy and would be a practical additional mechanism for the protection and promotion of privacy in the ACT.
''Such a statutory cause of action may also help to establish social norms as to what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, particularly in relation to the use of new technologies.''