Health :: Health information and internet privacy top youth privacy concerns

The privacy of medical information?and whether it should be kept confidential from parents?is one of the key concerns raised by young people as part of a major inquiry into Australia?s privacy laws, being conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC).

ALRC President Professor David Weisbrot said research indicates that young people have attitudes to privacy that differ significantly from the attitudes of their parents, grandparents and even older siblings.

?We?ve been holding a series of youth workshops?and have set up a special ?Talking Privacy? website aimed at young people?to test this theory as part of our comprehensive review of Australia ?s federal privacy legislation,? he said.

So far, the youth workshops?aimed at 12 to 25-year-olds?have been held in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart . The workshops explore a range of privacy issues, seeking experiences and opinions about how the privacy laws are working, and what changes should be made for the future.

Privacy in cyberspace?particularly in online spaces such as YouTube and MySpace?has been another major issue raised by young people.

?While sites such as YouTube and MySpace might seem like a ?fad? to older people, for many young people, that has become the normal, everyday way of communicating with friends, relatives, and people they are just meeting for the first time.

?Laws designed to protect privacy in the outside world struggle to cope with the issues raised by online communities. For example, online publication of photographs?which may be sensitive and revealing?raises new challenges in relation to consent.

?Some young people go so far as to say that by posing for a photo, you more or less consent to it being posted online?but the ALRC has also heard of a number of stories of postings ?gone wrong?, some with quite dramatic consequences,? Prof Weisbrot said.

However, Prof Weisbrot said the issue that has raised the most concern in workshops is the way in which personal health information is handled.

?While there is no consensus on the age at which young people are entitled to confidentiality, most of the young people we have spoken to seem clear that at some stage in adolescence, they should have the right to consult a doctor in complete confidence, and expect that this will be kept private, even from well-meaning parents,? he said.

Young people from all over Australia have a chance to contribute to the ALRC?s Privacy Inquiry.

?By logging on to the ALRC?s ?Talking Privacy? website, you can ?Have Your Say? online. This could be a story about an experience with a privacy issue, or a suggestion for change. You might just want to alert the ALRC to an issue that has caused you some concern. Or you can respond to the questions in the case studies available on the website,? Prof Weisbrot said.

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