NSW privacy commissioner and Anti-Discrimination Board head Chris Puplick challenged the gay and lesbian community to defend their personal privacy during an address to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association (SGLBA) last Wednesday.

Puplick declared to the crowd of approximately 50 members gathered for the SGLBA’s monthly dinner at the Rex Hotel in Potts Point that privacy is one of the most basic [human] rights currently under threat from governments, commercial bodies and other members of the public.

I do not think that there has ever been a time in Australia and similar countries when the privacy of individuals has been more under threat than it is at this very moment, Puplick announced.

The attitude of governments towards personal privacy since the terrorist attacks of 11 September was the first area of concern highlighted by Puplick.

[In the wake of the attacks] governments around the world have moved, with little or no protest from their citizens, to mount significant assaults upon our personal privacy under the guise of national security protection or the fight against terrorism.

Puplick appealed to the crowd to consider whether they were in control of information on their personal health status, financial position, sexuality, beliefs and social associations.

If we are not in control of intimate information about ourselves -¦ then how are we able to assert that we have real personal autonomy, personal space [and] personal control of our lives? Puplick said.

Another contentious area addressed in Puplick’s speech was the protection of genetic data, information that Puplick asserted could have enormous social consequences if allowed to be freely available to bodies such as the police force, employers and insurance companies.

What if there really are genetic markers which predispose people towards homosexuality, or violence, or addiction, or alcoholism, or anti-social behaviour? -¦ Who should be tested, who should be told, who should be the subject of social, governmental or legal intervention -“ all of course in the interests of a better society for us all? challenged Puplick.

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