CSIRO Investigation – Is your Privacy in Jeopardy?

Posted on February 3, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Victims of CSIRO have recently become aware that the CSIRO have yet again “fiddled” with the terms under which its Investigation into Workplace Bullying is being conducted.

However, this time the changes are far more insidious and pose a flagrant violation of the privacy of the individuals who have provided submissions to the investigator in the belief that their individual submissions will not be provided to CSIRO.

The Privacy Statement published in relation to the investigation has been modified in the following manner:

At commencement of the investigation, the Privacy Statement contained the following paragraph:

“CSIRO will not be collecting any personal information directly from individuals making submissions to HWL Ebsworth Lawyers.”

However, the following change was published on the CSIRO website yesterday:
“CSIRO will be cooperating with HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and the Independent Investigator to facilitate their consideration and investigation of submissions (“Investigation”). CSIRO will receive personal information from HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and the Independent Investigator or while working with HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and the Independent Investigator during the Investigation.”

This change of the Privacy Policy relating to the investigation, which initially leads participants into a false sense of security by indicating that CSIRO will not have direct access to their personal submissions, now appears to revoke that agreement and will provide CSIRO with direct access to submissions as a matter of expediency.

The modification of this privacy policy after a commitment has been made by participants under the previous policy may very well constitute a breach of the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988, without the expressed consent of participant to proceed under the new privacy policy.

We, of course, would encourage participants to seriously consider whether or not they wish to continue to participate under the revised privacy policy, particularly if they are contacted by the Investigator and are requested to consent to the new privacy terms.

If you have already been contacted by the investigator seeking your consent to a change of the privacy terms, you should also consider whether it is pertinent to formally withdraw your consent by writing to the Investigator, particularly if you have not been fully informed of the ramifications of agreeing to the changed policy, i.e. your submission will be provided to CSIRO.

Should you discover that your personal information has been disclosed to an unauthorised third party without your expressed consent, you are entitled to make a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (AOIC) under the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988.

In fairness, it must be pointed out that HWL Ebsworth published the change to the privacy policy on their website on the 17th of January 2014 and expressly notified of the change in privacy policy.

Conversely, the CSIRO did not publish the change in policy until the 30th of January 2014, by merely replacing the privacy policy with its updated version and without identifying that the policy has fundamentally changed.

Coupled with at least three significant previous changes to the published Terms of Reference under which the investigation team were initially bound to operate, it is no wonder that serious concerns about the conduct of the investigation are being raised.

When the Investigator inappropriately attempts to publicly vilify those raising concerns rather than responding to the criticisms in a reasonable and constructive manner, there is serious cause for concern.

One must seriously question the benefit to the Australian Tax Payer for what is likely to be an exorbitantly priced investigation when the “independent” investigator in a workplace bullying investigation will not even make a determination on whether the complaints under investigation constitute workplace bullying!

Links to the original and updated privacy policy on both the CSIRO and HWL Ebsworth websites are provided below.

CSIRO Privacy Statement – Old Vs New

HWLE Privacy Statement – Old Vs New

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