Surveillance Security and Democracy - LAWS8037

Faculty: Faculty of Law

School: Faculty of Law

Course Outline: See below

Campus: Sydney

Career: Postgraduate

Units of Credit: 6

EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)

Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 2

Enrolment Requirements:

Academic Program must be 9231 or 5231 or 9220 or 5750 or 9200 or 5740 or 9210 or 9230 or 9214 or 5214 or 9285 or 5285.

Excluded: JURD7437

CSS Contribution Charge: 3 (more info)

Tuition Fee: See Tuition Fee Schedule

Further Information: See Class Timetable

View course information for previous years.


The ethical hacking of Anonymous and the leaking of secret documents to Wikileaks will form the main two case studies for addressing this course. This course examines the use surveillance (the techniques of social control through the use of information technology) in both the public and private sectors, information privacy (or 'data protection') law and freedom of expression law as a response to security concerns. Corporations wish to protect their assets from appropriation and misuse. Governments wish to protect their citizens from crime, terrorism, and in less democratic nations, from political dissent. The pervasiveness of Internet use by business, government and citizens has surveillance, privacy protection, freedom of expression and security at the centre of the emerging information economy and information society. This subject examines surveillance, security and some of the underpinnings of democracy (public discourse, free expression, privacy, due process) through the focus of these Australian laws, but also considers their place in an emerging international context.

LLM Specialisation

Recommended Prior Knowledge


Course Objectives

The objectives of teaching and studying this subject are:
  • To examine the concepts of 'privacy' (particularly 'information privacy' or 'data protection') and 'surveillance' (particularly 'data surveillance') and to attempt to identify the values at issue in laws dealing with these subjects
  • To introduce the international agreements influencing Australia's domestic privacy laws
  • To examine the concepts of freedom of expression and to attempt to identify the values at issue in laws dealing with these subjects
  • To examine many of the new technologies which enable surveillance (Internet Service Provider data collection, storage, deep pack inspection, Internet filter, and censorship)
  • To undertake a reasonably comprehensive and critical survey of the key general laws (statutory and other) that protect information privacy and freedom of expression. The emphasis is on the law applying in New South Wales and Commonwealth, and those aspects of international law that are relevant
  • To obtain a more in-depth understanding of the operation of data surveillance and data protection practices and these laws in a selected area of business, government or society, depending on individual interests

Main Topics

  • Overview of information privacy; Brief history of privacy legislation and the protection of freedom of expression in Australia
  • What is privacy / surveillance? - Theories
  • What is freedom of expression? – Comparative systems (Eg. Australia, Canada and the United States)
  • How does technology enhance the protection of civil liberties? How does technology impinge on civil liberties?
  • Key concepts in privacy laws / surveillance
  • Key concepts in security
  • Essential knowledge of the technologies used in surveillance
  • Enforcement and administration of privacy and freedom of expression
  • Collection principles
  • Surveillance laws
  • Use and disclosure principles
  • Access and correction principles (“Right to Forget”)
  • Special Topics: Wikileaks, the Use of the Internet to Affect Political Change (Eg. Libya, Egypt, Yemin, etc.).


4 x 1-2 page Notes and Queries (critical thoughts on readings, per class) – 10% per note - 40% and
6000 word research essay OR 5 minute video with accompanying 2 page report - 60%
Aerial View of UNSW

Study Levels

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