Application for a PID – AFP disclosure of homicide data

Date: 7 December 2018
Tags: Closed

This consultation is closed. The deadline for submissions was 1 February 2019.

The OAIC is inviting submissions on the Australian Federal Police’s application for a public interest determination. The deadline for submissions is 1 February 2019.

Background

On 1 November 2018, the Australian Information Commissioner received an application from the Australian Federal Police (the Applicant) for a public interest determination (PID) to be made under s 72 of the Privacy Act 1988.

The determination applied for would permit the Applicant to disclose limited personal information to the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) without breaching Australian Privacy Principle (APP) 6.

Specifically, the Applicant is seeking to be able to disclose personal information about the offender and suspects in connection with homicides that occur in the Australian Capital Territory, for the purposes of the AIC conducting research under its National Homicide Monitoring Program.

The Applicant has been permitted to disclose this information since 1991 under the terms of Public Interest Determination No. 5 (PID No. 5). However, PID No. 5 expired on 1 October 2018. The Applicant has submitted its application for a PID seeking to enable it to continue to disclose the information to the AIC.

View the consultation draft

Preliminary view on the application

Breach of APP 6

The Australian Information Commissioner’s preliminary view is that the Applicant will or may breach Australian Privacy Principle 6 by disclosing the homicide data to the AIC in the absence of a new PID.

In particular, the Commissioner considers that:

  • there are no applicable exceptions under APP 6 that would permit the disclosure, and
  • it is not appropriate or practicable in the circumstances to seek consent from individuals for the disclosures, because relying on consent from the relevant offenders and suspects would compromise the integrity of the research as datasets would not be complete in circumstances where consent is withheld
  • It is not appropriate in the circumstances to de-identify the information to be disclosed because information obtained from police services, such as the Applicant, is cross-checked by the NHMP against information obtained from other sources such as coronial reports and media reports, as a method of ensuring the accuracy of information obtained from police services. If the Applicant was to provide de-identified information to the AIC, this would limit the ability of the AIC to carry out this cross-checking process

Public interest considerations

Having considered the application, the Commissioner’s preliminary view is that the public interest in permitting the relevant disclosures for the purposes of the AIC’s research under the National Homicide Monitoring Program substantially outweighs the public interest in adherence to APP 6.

In particular, the Commissioner considers that, in the circumstances, the proposed disclosure of personal information is reasonable, necessary and proportionate, and that there are a number of safeguards that mitigate and minimise the privacy impacts to individuals. In particular, the Commissioner considered:

  • the role that the provision of ACT homicide data plays in the NHMP, without which the NHMP could not provide a complete, national picture of homicide statistics and trends in Australia. The NHMP is the only national program to monitor and analyse homicide rates, types and trends, and to communicate this information to stakeholders such as police forces, government and non-government bodies, and to the general public. Ongoing monitoring of homicide trends locates short-term changes within a longer timeframe, and enables policymakers and law enforcement personnel to identify changes in risk markers associated with incidents, victims and offenders
  • that the personal information to be disclosed is limited to the minimum amount necessary to achieve the purpose
  • the information to be disclosed by the Applicant will only be used by the AIC for the purposes of the National Homicide Monitoring Program
  • the research guidelines and approvals that underpin all of the research conducted by the AIC, including:
    • that the National Health and Medical Research Council’s National Statement on Ethical Conduct (National Statement) and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (Code) guide the conduct of all of the AIC’s research
    • that research proposed by the AIC is reviewed by an independent Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) to assess whether such research is consistent with the National Statement and the Code, and where the research involves human participants, that the research is consistent with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research
  • the Applicant anticipates entering into an agreement with the AIC to govern the terms of the disclosure of information, with safeguards including that:
    • the AIC staff responsible for inspecting information is limited to those who have substantial prior experience in criminological research involving access to sensitive data and who have been personally authorised by the Director of the AIC to undertake the research
    • the results of the research are published in de-identified, aggregate form to prevent the identification of individuals or individual cases
  • given these safeguards, the potential for the disclosures to adversely affect individuals is very limited.

Draft determination

Given these views, the Commissioner’s preliminary view is that a new PID should be made to permit the Applicant to disclose the homicide data to AIC.

Therefore, subject to the result of this consultation, the Commissioner proposes making this draft PID for a period of 7 years. The Commissioner considers this to be an appropriate period of time given that the disclosure of ACT homicide data for these purposes has been happening under PID No. 5 for over 27 years, and the new PID is similar in the scope of disclosure and includes similar safeguards.

Public consultation

The OAIC invites your comments on the issues raised by the Applicant’s application and the draft PID. The closing date for comment is 1 February 2019. Submissions can be sent to consultation@oaic.gov.au or GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001.

While you may lodge submissions electronically or by post, electronic lodgment is preferred. The OAIC would also appreciate it if you can provide your submission in a web accessible format or, alternatively, in a format that would allow the OAIC to easily convert to HTML code e.g.: Rich Text Format (.rtf) or Microsoft Word (.doc).

The OAIC intends to make all submissions publicly available. Please indicate when making your submission if your submission contains confidential information which you do not wish to make public. Requests for access to confidential comments will be determined in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Privacy collection statement

The OAIC will use the personal information it collects in the course of this consultation only for the purpose of considering and dealing with the application.

The OAIC’s privacy policy contains information about how you can:

  • access and seek correction of the personal information that the OAIC holds about you
  • complain to the OAIC about how we have handled your personal information

You can contact us at:

enquiries@oaic.gov.au
1300 363 992
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001, Australia.

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