The price of privacy

The Australian Psychological Society has informed its membership (of which I am one) of a recent ruling by the Privacy Commissioner. It relates to the requirement of psychologists to maintain client confidentiality. A complaint was made to the Commissioner that their GP had broken confidentiality  during a conversation with the police. The doctor had disclosed personal medical information to the police without the consent of the patient to do so.

The complaint was subsequently substantiated and the GP was ordered to pay $6,500.00 in compensation within four weeks.

Thus psychologists need to be aware of this as the same circumstances would be seen to apply. As a general rule, In Australia, police do not have the powers to require health professionals to provide them with information about a client. Indeed the health professional is explicitly barred from providing the police with confidential psychological information about client under privacy legislation (unless he has consent from the client or there is another legal obligation to do so)


If you had been doing couples therapy with Clyde and Bonnie, you cannot tell the police anything about information they had disclosed too you (barring other legal obligations).


I find it interesting that a price has been put on value of a person’s privacy – $6,500 (AUD). I wonder who came up with that figure and what logic they used to arrive at it. Why is it not $500 or $10,000?

But either way, we now know that the government of Australia views a client’s confidentiality as being worth $6,500.

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