What to do when Councils start to breach Privacy Act

It is distributing that some Councils are starting to be its own laws.

What is happening now

Take for example the City of Melbourne. This Council is using Google Street View-style camera monitoring of its property in inner city residential streets.

The Age reported (17 July 2013):

“A Carlton woman claims she saw a council contractor filming backyards, with the camera gazing over fences.

But the council says the $93,000 project – which it hasn’t advertised – is capturing images only of roads, council-owned buildings, street furniture and signs, and not private properties.

The SUV with pole-mounted camera, in Victoria Lane.

Linda Bond said she was in the backyard of her Princes Street house on Friday July 5 when she spotted a camera on a pole peering over her back fence.

Stepping into Victoria Lane behind her house, she saw the pole and camera was attached to a white SUV with Queensland number plates.

Miss Bond said she had received no warning the council was taking footage and regards it as a disturbing invasion of privacy.

According to a letter handed to Linda Bond, the vehicle is part of the council’s ‘earthmine imagery’ project.

She said that when she asked the two men in the vehicle what they were doing they said they were “doing some work for the council” and handed her a letter.

Click here to read more….

What is Privacy?

Extracts from Privacy Victoria

What is privacy?

‘Privacy’ means many different things to people.

It can mean protecting your personal space by not having others observe you when you are at home or in your backyard. It may be expecting not to be subject to video surveillance when you are at work. Central to all ideas of ‘privacy’ is keeping your own actions, conversations, information and movements free from public knowledge and attention.

What privacy means as a general concept is often different to what privacy means under law. Only certain types of information and activities are protected by privacy legislation.

Data protection laws

Most privacy laws are more correctly described as data protection laws, as they are limited to regulating the handling of personal information by organisations.

Knowing Your Rights

You have rights to at least 4 Privacy Laws in Victoria:

  1. The Information Privacy Act  which is a standard for the protection of the privacy of personal information by the Victorian public sector, It has 10 underlying principles governing
    • Collection – how your private information is collected
    • Use or Disclosure – A Council’s use or disclosure , which includes getting your consent to the intended use or disclosure
    • Data Quality – A Council must take reasonable steps to ensure your information collected is accurate, complete and up to date
    • Data Security – A Council must take reasonable steps to protect  your personal information it holds from misuse and loss and from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure. On request by any person, your Council must take reasonable steps to let the person know, generally, what sort of personal information it holds, for what purposes, and how it collects, holds, uses and discloses that information.
    • Openness – A Council must set out in a document that clearly expressed policies on its management of your personal information, including making the document available to anyone who asks for it.
    • Access & Correction – If and when a Council  holds personal information about your, it must provide your with access to the information on request by your, except to specific conditions specified in the Information Privacy Act
    • Unique Identifiers – Your Council  must not assign unique identifiers to individuals unless the assignment of unique identifiers is necessary to enable the organisation to carry out any of its functions efficiently. It cannot  adopt as its own unique identifier of the individual that has been assigned by another organisation unless it meets the exception conditions set out in the Information Privacy Act
    • Anonymity– Wherever it is lawful and practicable, you must have the option of not identifying yourself when entering transactions with your Council
    • Transborder Data Flows – Council may transfer your personal information to someone (other than you or  a Council staff) who is outside Victoria only if it meets very specific conditions set out in the Information Privacy Act
  2. The Health Records Act 2001 (Victoria) that protects your private health information
  3. The Privacy Act 1988 (Commonwealth) covers the handling of your personal information (including health information) by Federal government agencies, credit reporting organisations and parts of the private sector (excluding small businesses)
  4. Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 that all Victorian government organisations (inclusive of all Councils) must act in a way that protects human rights. This includes the right to privacy.

Check to see if your Council has explicit privacy policy that refers to these laws. If the policy does not exist or lacks reference to and/or application of these laws, the policy is likely deficient.

How you can complain breaches of Privacy Laws

ComplaintsWhen you have detected a breach, lodge an official complaint to your Council with violation specifics of which laws’ sections . When you get an unsatisfactory response from your Council, lodge a complaint to the

If you need help contact your local ratepayers group or MRI to assist.


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