Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Daily Telegraph | This is an Act of total bastardry

The Australian Daily Telegraph has an interesting bit about one person's experience of Australian privacy legislation. Highly recommended (and entertaining) read:

The Daily Telegraph | This is an Act of total bastardry:


June 9, 2004

JUST over a year ago while driving home along Parramatta Rd I had one of those car accidents that restores your faith in human nature. Or so it seemed.

While changing lanes I failed to check my blindspot and side-swiped another car in the inside lane, smashing its front bumper and headlight and doing a fair bit of damage to my right-hand side.

Given that I was the one who was changing lanes, the accident was my fault. The other bloke couldn't have been nicer, especially, as he explained, he'd just had a new front bumper fitted.

We exchanged names and numbers. I was insured, he wasn't, but given that I was in the wrong it was a simple matter of paying the excess and lumping it.

I processed the forms, but forgot to pay the excess. A couple of weeks later I received a call from my apparent friend which not only spurred me into lightning action, but made me reassess my initial appraisal of the once-genial knockabout with whom I had the pleasure of colliding.

The bloke rang me out of the blue, told me he knew where I lived, that I didn't know what sort of person he was, and that if I didn't pay up by the end of the week he'd get the money off me by other means.

I know when I'm being threatened and did the only manly thing. I panicked like a girl. I rang the insurance company, gave them my credit card details, had it all paid within 60 seconds, and asked if they could provide me with my frightening friend's mobile number so I could reassure him that everything was cool.

"Sorry sir, under the Privacy Act we can't give you that number," the woman said.

"But I gave you his number," I said reasonably. "He doesn't have insurance. The only reason you have his number is because I took it at the scene and gave it to you on the form. I want to call him now to sort this out but I don't have it on me."

"Yes, sir, but under the Privacy Act I can't give it to you."

"So how did you get his number?"

"That's not the point, sir."

Etcetera. After some journalistic theatrics – where I explained to the woman (with the mildest exaggeration) that I feared for my safety – the woman relented, albeit in a drawn-out New Price is Right-type charade where I guessed the first two numbers were 04, and then played higher and lower for the remaining eight digits.

I didn't win the car, or even the vacuum cleaner, but I came away with the feeling that the Privacy Act may be one of the daftest pieces of legislation going around.


Full text here ...

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