Queensland civil and workplace surveillance laws under the microscope

| July 27, 2018

The Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) will examine the need to strengthen legislation around the use of surveillance devices and technologies in both the civil and workplace environments.

The state’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath made the announcement in the light of the recent release of the Palaszczuk Government’s Drones Strategy.

“Each and every day we are seeing advances in smartphone technology, drone capability as well as tracking and data surveillance devices,” Mrs D’Ath said.

“This begs the question whether the right balance is in place between protecting the privacy of Queenslanders and the legitimate use of these technologies.

“The QLRC will examine ways to achieve this balance as technologies become increasingly sophisticated,” she said.

Mrs D’Ath said Queensland’s Invasion of Privacy Act 1971 included a number of offences relating to the use of listening devices to monitor, listen to or record a person’s private conversations, but the Act did not regulate optical, tracking or data surveillance devices.

“Often a person will need to rely on offences contained in the Criminal Code Act 1899 or common law actions such as trespass and nuisance to bring action against the misuse of surveillance devices and technologies,” she said.

“This is why the QLRC will explore the adequacy of the laws and consider whether there is a need for specific legislation that covers all aspects beyond just listening devices.”

Mrs D’Ath said the use of surveillance devices in workplaces would also be considered by the QLRC.

“Employers use optical surveillance, data monitoring and tracking devices for a number of legitimate reasons, including to ensure employee health and safety, protect property from theft and damage, prevent fraud and monitor employee performance,” she said.

“However like any other surveillance, it is vital this is considered against an employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

“We need to ensure legislation strikes the right balance.”

The reviews of civil surveillance and workplace surveillance will not cover the use of surveillance devices by law enforcement agencies, which is already regulated in Queensland.

The terms of reference have been made public and the QLRC will report back by 1 July 2019 on civil surveillance issues and by 30 June 2020 in terms of workplace surveillance.