Telephone Hacking and its Relevance to Strata

A certain phone hacking scandal has made privacy the cause célèbre of recent times.

The truth is that before these events, the principle has struggled for the attention it deserves. Laws passed more than twenty years ago in Australia go misunderstood and misused on a daily basis. A comprehensive review of these laws published in 2008 languishes in the backroom of our parliamentary recesses struggling for attention amidst so many other issues that seem to have a more direct impact on us.

Meanwhile in strata–land, the Australian Capital Territory has released proposed new unit titles management laws that declare the National Privacy Principles to apply to owners corporations. It’s a clever piece of law reform neatly side stepping the more difficult argument of whether or not Privacy Laws as presently enacted, apply to strata by simply declaring in strata management legislation that they do. There would be much less confusion in our meeting rooms if we took this declaratory approach more often.

So with doubt about privacy for owners corporations soon to be removed, our friends in the ACT begin to grapple with how information about owners is collected, stored, used and discarded. The reforms will play out at two levels; privacy policies for owners corporations and privacy policies for the strata management companies that serve them. And here is the first learning from this experience for all of us, the information we are talking about is the property and responsibility of the owners corporation, not the strata manager so it is for the owners to tell the strata managers what to do with the information and not vice versa.

In the ACT at least, the tables have been turned. To borrow from a former Prime Minister; ‘the people will determine who has access to our information, and the terms upon which it will be used.’

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