Privacy Laws And Media: Understanding The Scope And Definition

What is personal information and why is privacy important?

Privacy of a person is a high concern. It demands the personal information of a person to be safe. Now the question is that what is personal information? In order to answer the query, this is to states that personal information is an information or opinion about an identified or reasonably identified person. Many of the cases have happened where the privacy of a person has not been considered and the issue brought many adverse impacts to the person.

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Another aspect that needs to think upon is to check that why such privacy is important. Here this is to inform that every person has some private information that must be secure with him/her only. Publishing of such information can lead many dangerous impacts to such subjective person. With the development of technology, the concern had been more important in recent years. People started using personal information such as e-mail, telephone number, and health status of others to seek some benefits. In such a scenario, a proper law was required to deal with the issue of privacy breach. The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) is the lead legislation that has developed in the area of privacy concern and breaches.

The concern of maintaining the privacy of a person becomes more typical to handle when it comes to the involvement of media. The lead task of media is to gather the information of a case and to publish the same. In such a situation, there are more chances of privacy breaches. The law is already there to deal with such issue, yet it becomes the responsibility of a media practitioner person to keep such information very carefully. In addition to legal issues, some ethical issues also exist in the cases of privacy breach, as it is not ethical to spread private information of someone whether with or without any intention. The essay presented hereby is focused on the Privacy law of the nation. A recent example related to privacy breach will also be analyzed in the same.

In Australia, apart from the Privacy Act 1988, some other laws are also there on the subject of privacy. Privacy Regulations 2013 are one out of such law. The Governor-General has issued these regulations by the virtue of powers granted under section 100 of The Privacy Act 1988 (hereinafter referred as an act). The act includes a total thirteen Australian Privacy Principles (Australian Government (a), 2018). These principles provide the rights, obligation, and standard in respect to handling the personal information. The act is applicable to government agencies and requires them to keep personal information of people carefully (Australian Government (b), 2018). Privacy of a person can be of various kinds. For instance, under a different law, a person is granted the privacy of information, the privacy of communication, personal privacy and so on (Australian law Reform Commission, 2018).

The Privacy Act 1988 and other laws on privacy in Australia

In conjunction with federal legislation, the states of Australia have their different legislation to deal with the privacy issues. For instance in New South Wales the State of Australia, Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) and Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 is there, In Victoria state Information Privacy Act 2000 (Vic) is the lead legislation to deal with the privacy breach issues.

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As the name states, this right is provided to individuals to ensure their privacy. Under this right as a person is entitled to keep his/her, personal information secure and he/she can use such right in against of a second person who uses personal information of the first person without asking (Australian Government (c), 2018). It means if a person deliberately allows other to use the personal information of him/her, the situation will not be treated as a breach of privacy. However, the court considers the facts and rules of every case to decide that whether the actual breach was there or not.

It was held in the case of Australian Broadcasting Corporation V Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd (2001) 185 ALR 1 that every use of other’s information cannot be treated as a breach of privacy. In the stated case. Respondent has used a video clip originally prepared by petitioner. The petition has made an application to seek an interlocutory injunction in against of respondent by using the media clip. Court has rejected the application of petitioner and provided that in general right of privacy is not granted to the corporations (Dörr and Weaver, 2012). Further, the definition of privacy has also been reviewed. As Gleeson CJ informed that there is no fine line between a breach or no breach of privacy of a person. It all depends on the nature of information. However, use of the information belongs to another person cannot be treated as privacy breach merely because the same belongs to another or an activity cannot be treated as private because the same has not been done in public (Austlii, 2018). It was decided that the following matters will be treated as private information:-

  1. Disclosure of private facts in public.
  2. The publicity that places a person in a false light in the eyes of the public.
  3. Intrusion into the private affairs of a person.
  4. Inappropriate use of name or likeliness of a person for the benefits of others (High Court of Australia, 2018).

Scope and definition of privacy is a concern for every nation. Hosking & Hosking v Simon Runting & Anor [2004] NZCA 34 is a significant case in New Zealand. In the decision given of this case, it has held that for a successful claim of privacy, the two basic requirements need to be fulfilled, that is mentioned as under:-

  • The existence of the fact that have related expectations of privacy.
  • Publicity of those private facts that can prove very offensive for a reasonable person.

The impact of media on privacy breach

In order to conclude the scope of privacy, this is to state that publication or use of any such information of such personnel that is not likely to be public, leads an issue of privacy breach.

As mentioned above, privacy laws have immense expectations from media practitioners, many challenges are there before such practitioners. The term named privacy law, ethics, and media are closely connected with each other (Britz, 2018). In the current scenario, people are very much dependent on the media. In their lives, the media plays a very crucial role that keeps them informed about their surroundings. Many of the media technologies are developing these days, by using the same people dishonor the privacy of others. For instance, the digital content cloud management system is a local media app that provides data regarding the likes and dislikes of people. Smart devices such as I phone routinely collect such information of people and provide the same to a third party without being noticed by a related person. Climate change is referred to as the most significant moral issue but in the absence of ethically responsible media, a few fewer people can have an idea about the true importance of these developments.

A media practitioner is a person, who remains engaged in gathering, writing, editing, and broadcasting of some information and news to the public. Such a person includes an editor, journalist or publisher of a news. Such practitioners have the power to develop and circulate news but they are not free to misuse the private information of anyone. In the 21st century, everyone is connected globally with the help of technology. The news is used to spread worldwide within a minute and media remain the force behind the same.

Many rules and regulations are there in Australia that puts liability on media practitioners in the matter of privacy of a person.  Australian Press Council has published some principles that are focused on the subject of dealing with privacy. These principles provide a legal manner in which personal information of a person must be gathered and to deal with.  These are total seven-principles in number. These principles are about centered on the subject of “How to deal with Privacy of a person.” and informed the manner in which personal information should be collected, use, secure and disclose (Australian Press Council, 2018).

MEAA Code of Ethics is another law, which again explains the mode in which media practitioners should deal in the matter that consists privacy issues. As the name stated, this code enlightens the ethical requirements in the subjective area (, 2018). Reporting of current affairs and news are very much important in order to keep the public update with their surroundings and environment and hence these activities of media practitioner need to be done in an idol manner. FreeTv code provides the requirements and guidelines on the topic of reporting of current affairs. This code demands that while reporting a news, the privacy of involved person must take into consideration (, 2018).

Codes of ethics and guidelines for media practitioners on privacy

At last, ACMA Privacy Guidelines for Broadcasters are also there. A Media practitioner also includes broadcasters sometimes. Broadcasting is a significant activity by which news of one area reaches up to others. Broadcasting is a very powerful thing and therefore it becomes the responsibility of media practitioners to deal with due care. ACMA Privacy Guidelines restrict the media practitioners by broadcasting private information of other people without their permission.

In order to perform their roles, media practitioners have certain limitations. It means they cannot freely write anything about anyone, cannot publish the data of other parties to the public. Doing such, activities can lead many legal as well as ethical issues. Following are some of the examples of legal and ethical boundaries that media practitioner has to face while dealing with personal information of people.

Legal Challenges:-  The far most legal challenges that involve in a case of media practitioner is related to their accountability (, 2018). In cases of privacy breach, such practitioner becomes liable to answer the queries of authorities.

Health status of a person is counted as personal information. Cases where such issue is involved already, media and doctors are required to keep those information secrets (Johnston & Bradbury, 2018). For instance: – In cases of rape or physical harassment, media need not publish the name and other details of the victim as it can cause defamation issue. Similarly, it is not legal to broadcast and public the health status of a person as this is an information that should be kept with that person only (, 2018).

If media comes across to a case, where a privacy breach is already there then in such a situation, it becomes the duty of media practitioners to cover only issue but not the facts of the reason of such issue. In conjunction with this, the interview is another area where care needs to be taken. While conducting an interview, a media practitioner is required to respect the private information of such person. They are not free to ask any such information to the other person that can make him/her feel offended. Therefore this is to conclude that privacy is a very sensitive area and media practitioners have to face many legal challenges while gathering information in the cases that consist of a privacy breach issue.

Ethical Challenges: – Ethics lead to good practices. There are endless ethical challenges before media practitioners when it comes to issue of privacy. Media is required to be a revelation for the public. People trust on Media and news publishes by the same. Publishing the personal information of a person is not ethical at all, as the same can prove very dangerous to a person. Maintaining confidentiality of a person is the most lead ethical challenge for the media practitioners. Ethics do not put any penalties of a person in case of breach; however, the same is required to be follow as it brings many other adverse results to the media practitioners. In those cases where privacy is already a concern it becomes liability of the reports to not to report any information such as name, photograph, contact number and so on. Ethical challenges refer to a situation where a person need to check that what is the right thing to do and which alternative he/she should take.

Legal and ethical challenges faced by media practitioners on privacy breach

However, there are many theories of ethics such as virtual theory, utilitarianism, deontological and so on. All these theories provide different aspects. The lead ethical challenge before media practitioners is to choose the correct ethical theory and act according to the same (Dwyer, 2012). For instance according to utilitarianism ethics, one should do the thing that is beneficial for the greatest number of people. These ethical dilemmas are the main ethical challenges before the media practitioners and they need to deal with them with due care.

Recently a case has been reported where the personal information of other students Manor Lakes P-12 College has been found in iPad of Melbourne School’s student. The information was highly confidential as it contained crucial data related to the health of other students. It was not the first time when such issue has been reported in the school. In the past also, similar kind of news incidents have happened there. The document that has been found in the girl student’s iPad contained names, photos, family, and medical details.

The document was an explained one and the names of students who have expelled from school due to their mental conditions were there. By looking up to the documents, one could know everything about the health status of respective children. There was a photo of a child with the words noncompliance and anger. The students who were engaged in smoking and alcohol drinking were also identified. It was a lead issue that could have very negative impacts on the lives and careers of children of the school (Cook, 2018).

Later on, it has been investigated that the girl with the document had full access to IT system of the school. In the defense, the father of the liable girl said that his daughter has done right. Even being 14 years old, she did not breach any privacy law and did not make the information public. The school was on default as many incidents have reported where the same fails to keep the data secure.

Now moving towards the challenges of media practitioners again, this is to state that in the discussed case, there are many legal and ethical challenges involved for such practitioners.  Firstly, the case is already contained an issue of privacy breach. In such a situation, the matter is already sensitive. Further, as the privacy breach is related to health information, media practitioners would also be required to look after the other related laws. While collecting the facts of the case, the personal information of children is required to be dealt with very safely. Children are involved in the case and hence interviews thereof need to be conducted lawfully. A media practitioner has a challenge to conduct the interviews lawfully. While collection of data they need the presence of parents of the children.

Further, principles of privacy law need to be complied with. As according to these principles, a journalist should respect the dignity and privacy of a person, in the given case media is required to understand the value of health-related reports of children. Broadcasting is another concern of the case. While broadcasting the news, the media must ensure not to show any part of the document that contained the personal information of children and hence ACMA Privacy Guidelines for Broadcasters will also be applicable to media practitioners. According to these guidelines, information related to the health of a person must not be broadcast. Further, it is also provided that such information need not be secret in order to be private. Breach of any such law can be held a media practitioner liable for penalties and Punishments (Patching & Hirst, 2013).

These guidelines demand that the personal information of children demands more attention. No report, clipping, or film should be broadcasted that involves a negative health condition of children. In the given case study, mental, physical, and behavioral aspects and conditions are included and therefore it would be illegal to broadcast any information related to the same.

On the other side, ethical challenges are also there for media practitioners. What is ethical, what need to do the accuracy of information are some of the examples of ethical challenges. The guilty of the case is also a children and it is also required to keep his/her name unrevealed because doing so can also put negative impact on her career. Further, bring the case into notice of public can prevent similar cases but also can motivate other students to do so. Reporting of case can be beneficial for one but can lead adverse impact on others. Form the side of school, some ethical concerns are there. Breach of privacy is a very significant issue. While gathering and publishing information of the case, the ethical challenge is to maintain the goodwill of the school. MEAA Code of Ethics also seems to be applicable to the case. Many of the children and their future is involved in the case, therefore it is a responsibility of media person to apply the ethical theories and to take best possible option.


To conclude the essay, this is to state that a media practitioner has to comply with various privacy laws. Media is a powerful tool but one need to use the same with proper care as misuse of the same can held a person liable for the breach of laws. Many Privacy laws are there in the nation that provides a manner of act to media practitioners. The cases where the issue is related to privacy breach, these practitioners need to publish the report and conducting interviews very carefully. In addition to law, ethics is also there. This subject forces the media practitioner for the well-being of others.

In the world full of technology, it is also typical for media practitioners to keep the personal data secure, yet they are required to do so. People trust media and therefore media practitioners need to keep and develop that trust. These media practitioners need to deal with legal and ethical challenges wisely. They need to understand that even a small step can bring the very significant result to the life of someone and hence being a responsible media practitioner, they are advised to comply with the provisions of applicable laws.

References: (2018). Privacy guidelines for broadcasters. Retrieved From:

Austlii. (2018) Protecting Privacy, Property, And Possums: Australian Broadcasting Corporation V Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd[*] Retrieved From:

Australian Broadcasting Corporation V Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd (2001) 185 ALR 1

Australian Government (a) (2018). Australian Privacy Principles. Retrieved From:

Australian Government (b) (2018). Privacy in Australia: Challenges and Opportunities. Retrieved From:

Australian Government (c), (2018). Protecting a Right to Personal Privacy. Retrieved From:

Australian law Reform Commission. (2018). Introduction to the Inquiry. Retrieved From:

Australian Press Council. (2018). Statement of Privacy Principles. Retrieved From:

Britz, J.J.  (2018). Technology As A Threat To Privacy: Ethical Challenges to the Information Profession

Cook, H. (2018). School students’ private medical details leaked in privacy breach. Retrieved From:

Dörr, D. and Weaver, R. (2012) The Right to Privacy in the Light of Media Convergence –: Perspectives from Three Continents. Germany: Walter de Gruyter. (2018). Code of Practice. Retrieved From:

Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002

High Court of Australia. (2018). Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd. Retrieved From:

Hosking & Hosking v Simon Runting & Anor [2004] NZCA

Information Privacy Act 2000 (Vic)

Johnston, C., & Bradbury, P. (2018). 100 Cases in Clinical Ethics and Law. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. (2018) MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics. Retrieved From:

Patching, R. & Hirst, M. (2013). Journalism Ethics: Arguments and cases for the twenty-first century. Oxon: Routledge.

Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW)