A privacy tort is a terrible idea – here’s why

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The Australian Law Reform Commission is currently investigating (for at least the third time) whether Australia ought to introduce a privacy tort. Thankfully, our newspapers and telcos are strongly opposed to the idea.

It’s not just that the ‘need’ for a privacy tort hasn’t been established. Privacy torts act as restrictions on free speech. They give people the power to gag their opponents when their opponents say things they don’t like.

There are two keys to the maintenance of this important human right, and neither require a new legal cause of action. First, a government shouldn’t invade its citizens’ privacy (cc: ASIO). Second, individuals have to embrace personal responsibility. The basic rule is: don’t share information about your life that you don’t want to become public.

Rather than using the courts to silence others, concerns about privacy can be addressed by taking responsibility for one’s own information security.

Attorney-General George Brandis should instruct the ALRC to ignore his predecessor’s instructions and abandon all consideration of a tort of privacy.

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