Statement of Privacy Principles from the Australian Press Council, published online in August 2011.
The Council has published the following Statement of Privacy Principles. Along with the General Statement of Principles, the Privacy Principles are applied by the Council when providing advice or adjudicating on individual complaints.
Privacy Principle 1: Collection of personal information
In gathering news, journalists should seek personal information only in the public interest. In doing so, journalists should not unduly intrude on the privacy of individuals and should show respect for the dignity and sensitivity of people encountered in the course of gathering news.
In accordance with Principle 5 of the Council’s Statement of Principles, news obtained by unfair or dishonest means should not be published unless there is an overriding public interest. Generally, journalists should identify themselves as such. However, journalists and photographers may at times need to operate surreptitiously to expose crime, significantly anti-social conduct, public deception or some other matter in the public interest.
Public figures necessarily sacrifice their right to privacy, where public scrutiny is in the public interest. However, public figures do not forfeit their right to privacy altogether. Intrusion into their right to privacy must be related to their public duties or activities.
Privacy Principle 2: Use and disclosure of personal information
Personal information gathered by journalists and photographers should only be used for the purpose for which it was intended. A person who supplies personal information should have a reasonable expectation that it will be used for the purpose for which it was collected.
Some personal information, such as addresses or other identifying details, may enable others to intrude on the privacy and safety of individuals who are the subject of news coverage, and their families. To the extent lawful and practicable, a media organisation should only disclose sufficient personal information to identify the persons being reported in the news, so that these risks can be reasonably avoided.
Privacy Principle 3: Quality of personal information
A media organisation should take reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information it collects is accurate, complete and up-to-date.
Privacy Principle 4: Security of personal information
A media organisation should take reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information it holds is protected from misuse, loss, or unauthorised access.
Privacy Principle 5: Anonymity of sources
All persons who provide information to media organisations are entitled to seek anonymity. The identity of confidential sources should not be revealed, and where it is lawful and practicable, a media organisation should ensure that any personal information which it maintains derived from such sources does not identify the source.
Privacy Principle 6: Correction, fairness and balance
In accordance with Principle 3 of the Council’s Statement of Principles, where individuals are a major focus of news reports or commentary, the publication should ensure fairness and balance in the original article. Failing that, the media organisation should provide a reasonable and swift opportunity for a balancing response in the appropriate section of the publication.
A media organisation should make amends for publishing any personal information that is found to be harmfully inaccurate, in accordance with Principle 2 of the Council’s Statement of Principles. The media organisation should also take steps to correct any of its records containing that personal information, so as to avoid a harmful inaccuracy being repeated.
Privacy Principle 7: Sensitive personal information
In accordance with Principle 8 of the Council’s Statement of Principles, media organisations should not place any gratuitous emphasis on the categories of sensitive personal information listed in Principle 8, except where it is relevant and in the public interest to report and express opinions in these areas.
Members of the public caught up in newsworthy events should not be exploited. A victim or bereaved person has the right to refuse or terminate an interview or photographic session at any time.
Unless otherwise restricted by law or court order, open court hearings are matters of public record and can be reported by the press. Such reports need to be fair and balanced. They should not identify relatives or friends of people accused or convicted of crime unless the reference to them is necessary for the full, fair and accurate reporting of the crime or subsequent legal proceedings.