Photos and surveillance
There are Commonwealth, State and Territory laws that relate to taking and using images of a person without their permission, or recording their conversations or movements. Which law applies will depend on the circumstances, in particular:
- where the surveillance occurred or the photos were taken
- what was being monitored or photographed
- who was responsible for the surveillance or images.
The Privacy Act does not cover individuals acting in a personal capacity, such as a neighbour taking photos of you.
For general information on State and Territory laws that relate to privacy - including surveillance and listening devices - see www.privacy.gov.au/law/states.
Someone has taken photos of me without my permission. What can I do?
Consider contacting the police. The Privacy Act is unlikely to apply in this circumstance as it does not cover individuals acting in a personal capacity.
My photo has been posted online without my permission. How can I get it removed?
The first step is to ask the person who posted the photo to the site to take it down. If the person refuses, or you don't know who it is, you may wish to contact the administrator of the site and ask them to remove the image.
If the photo was posted online by an agency or organisation, or the site is hosted by an agency or organisation that is covered by the Privacy Act, you may be able to complain to our Office.
For information on what agencies or organisations need to consider when posting photos to the web, see www.privacy.gov.au/faq/business/gen-q5.
There's an image on Google StreetView that I feel breaches my privacy. What can I do about this?
You should contact Google. Click the ‘Report a problem' function available on the photo you are viewing on StreetView to submit your request.
Is my employer allowed to monitor my activities in the workplace?
Some monitoring of staff activities in the workplace may be reasonable to ensure that staff are performing their duties and using resources appropriately. Where the monitoring includes retention of a record of the staff activity e.g. a CCTV video recording or a computer record of emails or a web surfing trail, then the privacy principles in the Privacy Act may apply.
Generally, monitoring of staff's use of email, the internet and other computer resources, where staff have been advised about that monitoring, would be allowed. The Office has issued advisory guidelines on Workplace Email, Web Browsing and Privacy. These recommend steps that organisations can take to ensure that their staff understand the organisation's position on this issue through the development of clear policies.
There are some other laws that deal specifically with the use of surveillance or listening devices. For example the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth) relates to rules around intercepting telephone communications. For some relevant State and Territory monitoring and surveillance legislation see www.privacy.gov.au/law/states.
An FAQ regarding the recording or monitoring of telephone conversations is available at www.privacy.gov.au/faq/individuals/q1.
A photo of me has appeared in the media without my permission. Who can I complain to?
The Privacy Act does not cover the acts and practices of media organisations in the course of journalism: see Information Sheet 12.
For information about complaints processes for media see:
- The Australian Press Council for print media
- The Australian Communications and Media Authority for television and the internet.
Other places to go
- A listing of Australian case law and legislation on privacy and surveillance can be viewed at www.austlii.edu.au/au/special/privacy.
- For the relevant State and Territory surveillance legislation click here.
- If you think an agency or organisation has misused your personal information, you can make a complaint. To find out more, see Complaints.