Privacy watchdog slams complaints report

Summary:Assistant Privacy Commissioner Mark Hummerston has rejected the conclusions of a report into telecommunications privacy complaints handling that found the Office of the Privacy Commissioner lagged behind its counterparts in response times.

Assistant Privacy Commissioner Mark Hummerston has rejected the conclusions of a report into telecommunications privacy complaints handling that found the Office of the Privacy Commissioner lagged behind its counterparts in response times.

The report released earlier this week by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) found that the average time for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to resolve telco consumer complaints was around six months. Meanwhile, spam and Do Not Call register complaints to the Australian Communications and Media Authority took an average of 30 days to resolve, and complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman were resolved in 10 days on average.

Hummerston said that the report didn't distinguish between the types of complaints received by the different authorities, stating that the office was bound to only deal with complaints that fell under the Privacy Act.

"A number of these telecommunications privacy complaints are about credit reporting, which by their nature are complex and generally require detailed investigation," Hummerston said in a statement provided to ZDNet Australia.

"Nor is it appropriate, without qualification, to compare the investigation times required for complex complaints under the Privacy Act 1988, with those complaints received under the Spam Act or the Do Not Call Register Act," he continued. "It is disappointing that this distinction was not made by the authors of the report, and that they did not seek further information from the office."

"It also seems tenuous to suggest that because some privacy-related complaints can be resolved quickly under a particular Act, that all privacy complaints, regardless of their complexity can be resolved in the same time frame."

Hummerston said that the length of time it took for cases to be resolved was due to the negotiations the office took to receive apologies, get compensation for the consumer and seek to change the way the business operates to avoid the situation in the future. The assistant privacy commissioner criticised the report authors for not seeking out consumers to give their side of the story.

"Given the importance of the area of this research, the Office [of the Privacy Commissioner] is disappointed that the opportunity to seek information from consumers and draw evidence-based conclusions was apparently not pursued," he said.

Hummerston said that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner looked forward to the Federal Government acting on its proposal to enhance the complaint processing powers in response to the findings of the 2008 Australian Law Reform Commission report "For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice".

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will become part of the new Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in November this year.

Topics: Telcos, Privacy, Security

About

Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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