Review of Queensland’s laws relating to Civil Surveillance and the Protection of Privacy in the context of Current and Emerging Technologies Submission by QAI

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Foreword

As signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Queensland must align all laws, policies and practices to accord with the Convention.  In relation to this inquiry, Article 22 is the indicator which must be upheld in the reforms to such law reform, which provides as follows:

Article 22 – Respect for privacy

  1. No person with disabilities, regardless of place of residence or living arrangements, shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence or other types of communication or to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation. Persons with disabilities have the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
  2. States Parties shall protect the privacy of personal, health and rehabilitation information of persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.

Introduction

The question of civil surveillance when applied to vulnerable and often devalued people is multi-faceted as the complexities and dilemmas regarding the subject of scrutiny, the motive and/or purpose of surveillance and the responses that usually follow such observations are often incongruent, misplaced and misunderstood.

First one must examine whether it is the person with disability who is subject to the surveillance or the support staff.

Often the life of the person with disability is subject to observation, discussion, reporting, recording, and shared between many other entities including across several government departments, multiple service providers, statutory bodies and community organisations.  Privacy is frequently breached and confidentiality rarely maintained, and it is inevitable that the reputation and dignity of the person is subsequently fractured.

While some electronic monitoring is considered commonplace (such as phone calls for quality and training) most people in the community can opt out of this option.  Most people in the community are not observed through cameras in their own homes, in their workplaces, or as they engage in everyday activities in the community yet this can be a daily experience for some people with disability.

We will attempt to convey both the benefits and disadvantages of electronic monitoring of people with disability across some of the review questions.  It is the view of QAI that the use of such monitoring mechanisms be used with the understanding and consent of the person with disability and in accordance with their wishes.  Where the person has impaired capacity, considerable and concerted effort must be made to assist and scaffold the person’s capacity to understand the reasons for their use.

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