Contemporary Issues in Law - Volume 13 - Issue 2
YOUR PRIVACY IN THEIR HANDS: EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC FROM LOCAL AUTHORITY REGULATORY COMMITTEE MEETINGS
A Noble Postgraduate Teaching Assistant, Birmingham Law School
Local authorities in England and Wales perform their various functions under a general ethos of openness and transparency. However, there are certain situations where information available to local authorities ought not to be disclosed to the general public. One such situation is where local authorities are required to determine applications for the grant of licences to engage in specific occupations. This role also carries with it the power to discipline licence holders, including removal of the licence, for breaches of the general law or any conditions attached to such a licence. The authority to grant licences and discipline licence holders is normally delegated to a regulatory committee of the council. Proceedings before regulatory committees routinely take the form of quasi-judicial hearings. Because of the nature of the proceedings, committee hearings are likely to involve dealing with information of a highly personal character, which is potentially sensitive, embarrassing or damaging for the individual applicant or licence holder. Local authorities have a statutory discretion to exclude the public from committee meetings where it is likely that 'exempt information' would be disclosed. The records of regulatory committee meetings reveal that liberal use is made of this discretion at hearings concerning the grant or removal of licences. The decision to exclude the public is often based on the council's own notions of what constitutes 'exempt information' and when the public interest in non-disclosure outweighs that in disclosure. Because of the way in which the discretion to exclude is exercised, it largely fails to deliver either privacy for the individual or transparent decision making for the authority. In this article, the use and value of the local authority's discretion is assessed, together with some suggestions for a more consistent approach to address the current tension between privacy and openness.
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS OF PRIVACY IN AN EVOLVING SOCIAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL CONTEXT
Oliver O'Callaghan Researcher, Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, City University, London
The key to our current understanding of privacy is the protection of, or access to, information. The legal protection of this right has both a subjective and objective element. In the most basic terms, for someone to experience an invasion of privacy they must feel that information which they had have a right to control has been accessed/distributed without their permission; this is the subjective element. For the law to intervene however, this feeling of intrusion must be objectively judged by a societal standard i.e. it must transgress the 'reasonable expectation of privacy'. This expectation of privacy has evolved a great deal over time, and particularly rapidly over the last decade. The advent of the internet, camera phones, high speed omnipresent connections, and social media has had a profound and irreversible effect on our conceptions of privacy. The terrain is virtually unrecognisable from 20 or even 10 years ago.
This paper explores the impact of this new technological landscape upon legal and social conceptions of privacy. Just how much have recent developments altered what we individually and collectively view as private information? And should the law, in its assessment of an objective or reasonable standard of privacy, attempt to reflect an evolving society or should it try to maintain a barrier against the further incursions in peoples' protected zone of privacy?
FACILITATING OIL CONTRACT TRANSPARENCY AND COMBATING OIL REVENUE CORRUPTION: RIGHT OF ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAWS
Piti Eiamchamroonlarp PhD Candidate (Oil and Gas Law) University of Aberdeen
This article argues that FOI laws are capable of protecting individual's right of access to primary oil agreement information and acting as an exception to the confidentiality undertaking imposed by a confidentiality clause. They are able to address and reconcile potential competing interests of the oil company in keeping the contract information confidential and the public interest of the people in knowing such information. Public interests likely to be offered by the disclosure, namely deterring corruption and ensuring fairness of the deal, tend to outweigh any potential commercial harm.