New laws put prying neighbours and vengeful exes on notice

QUEENSLANDERS will be better protected from prying neighbours, exes and bosses, with the Palaszczuk Government promising laws to finally regulate surveillance cameras, recordings, GPS tracking and drones.

In an election commitment, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has vowed to legislate against gross invasions of privacy after an 18-month investigation by the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) found the state's laws were woefully outdated when compared to the rest of Australia.

It found growing community concern around surveillance, including neighbours pointing CCTV cameras into their properties, bosses monitoring employees, and controlling partners using tracking and monitoring technology to perpetrate domestic violence.

The QLRC also noted disquiet around the use of drones with advanced audio and optical recording capabilities by individuals, governments and commercial companies.

New privacy laws in Queensland will crackdown on drones with advanced audio and optical recording capabilities.
New privacy laws in Queensland will crackdown on drones with advanced audio and optical recording capabilities.

Ms Palaszczuk said the privacy of many Queenslanders was already being compromised, and those incursions needed to be managed.

"Given the rapid pace at which surveillance technology is constantly evolving, the government will seek to legislate stronger privacy protections if re-elected," Ms Palaszczuk said.

The QLRC review to be released tomorrow contains a draft bill which recommends new criminal offences and penalties of up to three years jail, or an $8000 fine, for people who use, install or maintain surveillance devices that invade privacy, or who publish that video, audio or data.

New civil laws will oblige a person not to film in a way that interferes with an individual's privacy and would allow aggrieved parties to take them to court to seek damages.

A Surveillance Devices Commission would be created to adjudicate complaints between warring parties before they got to the courts.

The use of surveillance for legitimate purposes, including criminal investigations and deterring crime, will not be impacted. Currently, the Invasion of Privacy Act only regulates the use of listening devices in limited circumstances.

Some privacy laws have been introduced in recent years, including criminalising upskirting and the distribution of intimate images, but they only apply in the most extreme circumstances.

The QLRC noted Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT were the only jurisdictions that haven't yet modernised laws despite everyone carrying a surveillance device in their pocket in the shape of a smart phone. Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said the government would consult before proposing legislation and would await the findings of the QLRC's continuing review into workplace surveillance, due in March.