Aussie privacy law weak

Privacy legislation passed by Australia's Parliament could be among the first laws to fall short of complying with a strict European Union directive banning the flow of personal information with inadequate privacy protections.

Privacy legislation recently passed by Australia's Parliament could be among the first laws to fall short of complying with a strict European Union directive banning the flow of personal information about European citizens to countries with inadequate privacy protections.

AUSTRALIA - Australia's Parliament passed the privacy measure - which regulates the way the private sector can use, collect or disclose personal information - despite continued criticism that the changes it makes to current law do not go far enough to protect consumers' privacy. The legislation will go into effect in January 2002.

Among the most criticized aspects of the measure: It exempts several groups from the law, including political parties and most businesses with revenue of less $1.6 million, except those that hold health information or collect or disclose other personal data as part of their services.

Earlier this year, the EU's European Commission warned that it had serious concerns with the measure, saying the bill "may not provide an adequate level of protection for European citizens."

Privacy advocates said it is unlikely the bill will pass muster with the EU, given that it has not been substantially improved since the EU raised its concerns. "If the EU lets this pass, they're asleep at the wheel," said Roger Clarke, a privacy consultant.

If the Australian law is found to be inadequate, companies that do not find another means of complying with the EU privacy law could be prohibited from transferring personal data about Europeans to Australia.

"The attorney general's view is that the legislation does meet the EU's requirement," said Catherine Fitzpatrick, a spokeswoman for Australian Attorney General Daryl Williams.

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