Queensland police keep too many secrets – boundaries needed when seeking data

A parliamentary committee has heard the Queensland Police Service is still slow to release information, and could benefit from legislative safeguards over access to data from check-in apps.

Aug 30, 2021, updated Aug 30, 2021

Information Commissioner Rachael Rangihaeata told the committee that some State Government agencies were not meeting statutory timeframes under Right to Information laws.

That led to an increasing number of applications for external review by her office – 24 per cent of which involved the Queensland Police Service – as people sought answers and information from government.

“Applicants are already frustrated at the extended delay, and trust is diminished or lost,” Rangihaeata said, noting that her staff had unfortunately had to deal with unreasonable behaviour.

Rangihaeata said her office had engaged with QPS executives in October 2020 and received assurances the agency would seek to deal with RTI applications within the required timeframes and proactively release information where possible.

She acknowledged police had been stretched by the need to enforce public health orders during the pandemic but said there was a risk of the QPS losing community trust.

“This process will take time to embed, and we will continue to support this work,” Rangihaeata said.

Rangihaeata said the increasing number of external review applications had also put pressure on her staff, who were “overloaded and burned out by work”.

She welcomed the government’s commitment of more funding for a temporary increase in positions, which coincides with ongoing work to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Privacy Commissioner Phillip Green told the committee concerns had been raised in the media about police using a warrant to obtain data from the Check In Queensland app.

While it had only happened once, and police could also access data from private and other apps, Green believed the safeguards around secondary use of the State Government’s app should be clarified.

“There are some checks and balances (but) I believe a clear legislative prohibition might be appropriate to help keep the trust,” Green said.

Green said there had also been an increase in privacy complaints.

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