Australian Students Data given to Authorities without their notice.

14 Jul

According to a report from ABC, confidential students and staff data from The University of Technology, Sydney, were given to the NSW Police Force, Australian Federal Police and the Australian Taxation Office, without notifying the people concerned. The same has also happened to students from the University of Sydney.

The report carried comments from General Secretary of the Sydney University Student Representative Council, Lucy Saunders, who said “the university has broken the trust of students by supplying this information without any consultation”. In another SMH article, she also said “such acts create a climate of fear assuming police have a right to get any type of information they want without justification or consultation.”

David Bernie, the vice-president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, also said the police could get a warrant easily before a judge or magistrate if they require such information. This disclosure follows recent allegations that ASIO and NSW Police had been spying on student activists.

The Australian government should recognise that universities are not only simply teaching and learning grounds; but often and rightfully hotbed for political activism which provides a training platform for future political leaders, human rights activists, academics and lawyers. When the police and security agencies are allowed to obtain confidential student and staff data without the consent of those affected, it is just a slippery slope away from using these information for highly questionable activities.

Such disturbing methods would create a climate of fear, promote self-censorship, silence dissent and curtail free speech. It certainly does not promote the much desired intellectual climate and culture for Australian universities.

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