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Draft report: Engage Getting on with Government 2.0; Submission to the Government 2.0 Taskforce (December 2009)

Submission on published draft report Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0. to the Government 2.0 Taskforce

pdfDraft report: Engage Getting on with Government 2.0; Submission to the Government 2.0 Taskforce (December 2009)

This submission was sent to the Government 2.0 Taskforce regarding their published draft report Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0. The comments were originally sent by email to their public submissions address on 15 December 2009.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner (the ‘Office’) welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft Government 2.0 Taskforce report Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0 (‘the draft report’) .

In August 2009, the Office made a submission on the Government 2.0 Taskforce’s issues paper [1] . In its submission the Office noted that in order to encourage public engagement with the government online, individuals will need to have trust and confidence in the privacy practices associated with the information communications technology being used. The Office then suggested some strategies to assist embedding privacy in all stages of the development and use of Web 2.0 by Australian government agencies.

The Office is pleased to note that the Taskforce has acknowledged the importance of privacy throughout the draft report.

De-identification

In particular the Office supports the aims of recommendation 9 regarding privacy:

"To protect the personal information of individuals included in PSI, the Privacy Commissioner should develop guidance on the de-identification of PSI before it is released."

In the Office’s view, robust de-identification processes are important in ensuring that individuals are afforded appropriate privacy protections. It should be noted that in its review of Australian privacy laws, the ALRC recommended that the Office should develop guidance about the destruction of personal information, or rendering such information non-identifiable. The Government has accepted this recommendation [2] .

Changing culture

The Office also appreciates the acknowledgement within the draft report that agencies sometimes erroneously cite privacy as the reason for not disclosing information in situations where the Privacy Act does not actually prevent it. As noted in our previous submission, the Office considers that in order to build a culture that favours the disclosure of public sector information, those involved in developing and operating government sponsored Web 2.0 initiatives may need further education, possibly through guidance material.

With such privacy guidance in mind, the Office supports recommendation 3 about improving guidance and requiring agencies to engage online. The Office notes that this recommendation aims:

"To make government more consultative, participatory and transparent, the lead agency, in consultation with other relevant agencies, should issue and maintain guidance to improve the extent and quality of online engagement by agencies".

To further this aim, the Office suggests that it might be useful for the lead agency to develop guidance on facilitating anonymous interactions where this is lawful and practicable. For example, guidance could set out the criteria for identifying when anonymous or pseudonymous interactions would not be appropriate.

In the Office’s experience, agencies are mainly focussed on facilitating transactions that require individuals to be identified, such as registering for benefits, and are not fully aware of the opportunities for communicating anonymously or pseudonymously. When identifying individuals is not necessary, agencies might consider offering online communication channels without the red tape of registration procedures. This would allow individuals the choice of identifying themselves or interacting anonymously or pseudonymously. Guidance may assist agencies to provide more of these types of interactions and in doing so may encourage greater online engagement between individuals and agencies, especially in relation to informal communications.

This would also be consistent with the ALRC’s recommendation in its review of Australian privacy laws, that wherever it is lawful and practicable in the circumstances agencies and organisations should give individuals the clear option of interacting by either not identifying themselves or identifying themselves by a pseudonym [3] . The ALRC also recommended that the Office develop guidance on the issue [4] . The Australian Government has accepted both these recommendations.

Along the lines of other suggested actions under recommendation 3, it might be useful for major agencies to report on the number and type of online collaborations that they facilitate anonymously, pseudonymously or without registration.

If you require clarification of any of the Office’s comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me. These comments are not confidential and the Office has no objection to them being published.

Regards,

Nina Rassaby

Deputy Director Policy | Office of the Privacy Commissioner

P: 02 9284 9796 | F: 02 9284 9663 | www.privacy.gov.au



[1] Government 2.0 Taskforce 2009, Towards Government 2.0: Issues Paper

[2] ALRC 2008, ALRC 108 For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice , recommendation 28-5see www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/alrc/publications/reports/108/

[3] ALRC 2008, ALRC 108 For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice , recommendation 20-1 See www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/alrc/publications/reports/108/

[4] Ibid, recommendation 20-2