privacy at universities - joint campaign by nswccl, capa & supra

Friday, 11 April 2003 NSWCCL media release: 10/2003


The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, together with the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) and Sydney University Postgraduates Representative Association (SUPRA) today announced a campaign to protect the privacy of staff and students at Australian Universities that is threatened by record industry action in the Federal Court in the case of Sony & others v University of Sydney & others. 

The President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, said today: 

“This is the worst sort of privacy violation – The privacy of students & employees at universities will be sacrificed for profit.” 

“Multinational record companies have launched a campaign to force Australian Universities to disclose personal information about students using University IT facilities. Our campaign is to stop that and protect the privacy of university students and employees.“ 

“The record companies apparently believe that Universities should be responsible for whatever staff and students do using University IT facilities. They are trying, purely for their own commercial interests, to turn the Universities into a policing agency.” 

“Universities should not have to monitor what students and staff send and receive on University IT facilities just to suit the commercial interests of multinational companies.” 

“Incredibly, some Universities have responded by simply providing the information the record companies asked for, without considering the privacy of students or the legal obligations to keep personal information about students confidential.” 

“Universities need to be reminded that they have legal and moral obligations to respect the privacy of staff and students in their use of the internet. Universities in New South Wales are subject to the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998. They cannot simply hand over personal information to commercial interests without consent. Similar legislation operates in other States. “ 

“University staff and students should have unrestricted access to IT facilities to encourage academic freedom and excellence.” 

“Electronic communications should be protected from interception and monitoring in the same way telephone communications are protected.” 

“Telephone calls can’t be recorded without permission or intercepted without a warrant issued by a judge and neither should electronic communication.” 

“Telstra is not responsible if someone plays a song during a telephone call. Why should a University be responsible for what students do on the internet? Why should a University be entitled to block emails sent to a student or staff member? 

“Universities should be regulated by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in relation to their IT facilities. At present, most Australian Universities are not even registered with that body, although they are legally required to register.” 

“The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, CAPA and SUPRA have together decided to campaign to ensure that Universities respect their legal and moral obligations and to better protect the privacy of staff and students. It is expected to be a long campaign. The multinational record companies have enormous resources. However, the freedom to use the Internet and email without external monitoring is an important right that should be legally protected.”

For further information, contact: 

Cameron Murphy, NSW CCL, 0411 769 769