The Ryan Independent

Commentary on global, federal, state and local issues from Brisbane's western suburbs

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The Weekend Australian ignores privacy principles in disclosing the location of Tim Flannery’s home

August 6th, 2011 · No Comments · Posts

It took the effrontery of the Weekend Australian to stir this dormant blogger from his posting slumber.  Today’s edition sees them publish a Google Earth image clearly marking the location of Prof. Tim Flannery’s home on the Hawkesbury River, which took me less than 45 seconds to locate in Google Earth and doubtless would take others even less.  In their piece, (only the print edition includes the image), journalists Ean Higgins and Anthony Klan mock Flannery’s ownership of a waterfront property in light of his earlier claims that such properties “are in grave danger” from sea-level rise, and his recent statement concerning his property that “there is no chance of it being inundated, short of a collapse of the Greenland Ice Shelf”.    Later in the article, they write:

“While his place was, he admitted, “very close to the water”, the issue was how far it was above the water – something Professor Flannery would not reveal because, he said, it could help identify the location and subject him to a Norway-style attack by conservatives.”

So these journalists or their editors, clearly aware (but obviously dismissive) of Prof. Flannery’s expressed concerns about privacy and security, (far from trivial for a public figure who has been so abused by the more extreme blog commenters and whose house is on a publicly accessible waterfront),  flagrantly violate the privacy principles of their own newspaper and of the Australian Press Council:

Extract from The Australian’s Privacy Policy:

“We are bound by the National Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) in relation to the handling of personal information. Where appropriate we will handle personal information relying on the media exemption (but complying with the Australian Press Council Privacy Standards), related bodies corporate exemption and the employee exemption in the Privacy Act.”

Australian Press Council Privacy Principle 2: Use and disclosure of personal information

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.”

The irony is, of course, that The Australian has recently been so strident in disavowing any abuses of privacy, as in this piece entitled (double irony) Making a Mockery of Privacy just last week:

“This comes as the government, urged along by the Greens, has complained about the scrutiny applied to it by News Limited newspapers, including this one. It has used the phone hacking scandal in the British press to attempt to build a political case for tackling supposed abuses of privacy by the Australian media.”

Now Tim Flannery has not always made the most disciplined statements and pointing to his inconsistencies is a reasonable journalistic activity. Disregarding his privacy and security by making the location of his home so public – against his clearly expressed wishes – is, however, unconsionable.  Professor Flannery is owed an immediate and public apology.

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