Serious Invasions of Privacy – a new Cause of Action in Australia?

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) released its final report on “Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era” (Report) yesterday, setting out the detailed legal design of a statutory civil cause of action for serious invasions of privacy.  In a report commissioned by the Gillard government in 2013, the ALRC recommends that the cause of action be enacted in a Commonwealth Act and described as an action in tort.

Privacy is described in the Report as being a fundamental value worthy of legal protection which is “important to enable individuals to live a dignified, fulfilling, safe and autonomous life.  It is fundamental to our understanding and appreciation of personal identity and freedom”.  Given the speed at which technology is advancing, the Report provides much food for thought on whether Parliament should and how Parliament could proactively address the issues which are emerging in the community as a result.

Whether a new tort should be enacted, however, is ultimately a matter for the Australian Government.  While it seems quite clear that the current Australian Government has no intention of introducing a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy, it remains to be seen whether a future Government might act on the basis of the ALRC’s recommendations – further discussion of the Report and its recommendations can be found in our alert.