Privacy Law and Social Networks

Subject BLAW20002 (2013)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2013.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2013.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 35 hours.
Total Time Commitment:

120 hours.


100 points of undergraduate study in any area.



Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering requests for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills, and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

The University is dedicated to providing support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Melbourne Law School Student Centre
Tel: +61 3 8344 4475

Subject Overview:

The limited protection of personal information for those who engages with online social networks (eg Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter) has provoked a range of legal policy and law reform debates. This subject will delve deeply into the question of privacy law and social networks in an effort to explain and critique the current legal position as well as considering a range of proposals for improvements in the law.

  1. Introduction: privacy in a networked environment;
  2. Precursors: pamphlets, poetry, diaries, letters, biography, newspapers, photography, cinema, telephone, video and the rise of privacy;
  3. Traditional legal responses: the development of common law and statutory doctrine centred around misuse of private information;
  4. Traditional legal responses: the development of common law and statutory doctrine centred around intrusion;
  5. Post-war pockets of specialised privacy law including data protection, surveillance devices, spam, do not call register and accompanying institutional innovations;
  6. Modern trends and controversies: rise of an online networked society and challenges to privacy, problems of multi-jurisdictional laws;
  7. Traditional law in the circumstances of the internet - limits of incrementalism?
  8. Law reform proposals in Australia (including for a statutory cause of action for invasion of privacy, for protection against surveillance in 'public places', for reform of data protection law) - sufficient to address current challenges?
  9. Other jurisdictions (eg US and proposals for an online privacy code and 'do not track' register, Europe and the proposed 'right to be forgotten');
  10. Imagining the future – a limited role for law?

On completion of this subject students should:

  • Recognise that privacy and social networks have various legal connection points;
  • Appreciate the multiple ways in which privacy may be constrained and protected by the law, including in the context of social networks; and
  • Understand the basic features of the legal treatment of privacy specifically in the context of social networks.
  • Two short exercises (500 words and 1,000 words) based on the reading materials (35%);
  • Tutorial attendance and participation (15%);
  • 2 hour in class open book examination (50%).
Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be available from Melbourne Law School.

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of the subject the student should have:

  • Capacity for self-directed learning, specifically the ability to plan work and use time effectively;
  • Cognitive and analytical skills;
  • Ability to speak about complex ideas in a clear and cogent manner;
  • An awareness of diversity and plurality;
  • Write essays which develop structured argumentation;
  • Capacity to judge the worth of their own arguments.

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