Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Information Disclosure, National Interest and Other Measures) Bill 2022
The Law Council was pleased to make a submission to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee on the provisions of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Information Disclosure, National Interest and Other Measures) Bill 2022 (Cth).
The Law Council is supportive of measures to promote the safety and welfare of individuals and acknowledges the role of information disclosures permitted under the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) for purposes connected to the prevention of a serious threat to the life or health of a person. However, the lowering of legislative thresholds relating to the disclosure of potentially sensitive information must be carefully scrutinised in terms of necessity and proportionality. This is of particular importance, given that data privacy has naturally been at the forefront of minds in the wake of recent cyber incidents involving the theft and misuse of personal data.
The Law Council has therefore focused on the privacy implications of the Bill as drafted, especially the justifications for the Bill’s proposed expanded use and disclosure regime under Part 13 of the Telecommunications Act and the adequacy of safeguards and oversight to ensure the scheme operates appropriately.
In its submission, the Law Council recommends additional safeguards and clarification in relation to the measures contained in the Bill, including that:
- The Bill (or at a minimum, its Explanatory Memorandum) should be drafted with greater clarity regarding:
- the meaning and applicability of ‘matters raised by a call to an emergency service number’ and the parameters of ‘dealing with the matter or matters raised by’ a call to an emergency service number in new paragraph 285(1B)(c) so that there is a sufficient nexus between the matters raised, the dealings and an established emergency situation;
- the safeguards that would apply to the use and handling of information disclosed under section 285, as amended; and
- the parties to which disclosure could occur.
- Clarification should be provided in relation to how sensitive circumstances will be managed in practice, such as where individuals do not want to be located, or where there is a risk to the individual if their location is disclosed.
- Guidance should be developed on circumstances where it would be ‘unreasonable or impracticable’ to obtain a person’s consent for disclosure or use in proposed paragraphs 287(ab) and 300(2)(a).
- Record‑keeping requirements in Part 13, Division 5 of the Telecommunications Act should be extended to disclosures made pursuant to proposed sections 287 and 300.
- A statutory review mechanism should be added to ensure the amended disclosure regime is being used for its intended limited purpose.