Angela is a partner in Holding Redlich’s corporate and commercial group. She has over 20 years’ experience as a partner in private practice and in senior Australian federal government roles, including as general counsel and first assistant secretary at the Department of Communications and the Arts. She has commercial law expertise in both transactional and regulatory matters, with a focus on telecoms, media and technology, as well as competition, consumer protection, privacy and cybersecurity.
What inspired you to pursue a career in data law?
It is incredibly interesting and ever-changing, and it has such an impact on our daily lives. I enjoy helping clients navigate complex laws – as anyone who has tried to work out Australia’s telecoms infrastructure access laws or what our metadata retention laws require can attest! Working with clients on government inquiry processes is also rewarding – in Australia, data regulation continues to evolve and it is important that businesses make their voices heard to help shape legislation that is fit for purpose. I am fortunate to work with some amazing Australian and international clients, across the private and public sectors.
How has the work of data lawyers changed since you began practising?
Advancements in technology in the past 10 years have been breathtaking. For example, the first iPhone was released only in 2007. We can expect to see even greater change in the short term, including in areas such as AI. This of course has meant significant change in the work of lawyers; competition, consumer protection and privacy all present potential issues for clients in technology-related sectors – as does changing regulation, as legislatures around the world consider new laws to address emerging issues.
What has been your most interesting case or mandate to date and why?
In recent times, working with clients on the digital platforms inquiry consultation processes. The inquiry covered many areas – competition, consumer protection, privacy, communications/media law and more. The government has now released an ambitious roadmap in response to the ACCC’s final recommendations, which, if fully implemented, will see Australian legislation significantly updated to reflect the realities of the digital world in which we live. There is a great deal to do to ensure that new regulation, in all of these areas, provides the right outcomes, by both protecting consumers and facilitating innovation and economic growth.
What response do you foresee to the ACCC’s recommendation on strengthening privacy laws?
Australia’s digital platforms inquiry has provided a catalyst for the government to substantially reform the country’s privacy laws. This reform is well overdue, given that Australia’s Privacy Act is over 30 years old. It is not surprising that many of the inquiry’s recommendations related to privacy, given how much data digital platforms collect about Australians. I hope the government uses this opportunity to develop a framework for future regulation that ensures individuals are able to protect their privacy, while recognising that there are significant economic benefits from sharing certain types of personal information.
How do you see Australia’s position on the decryption of sensitive consumer information regarding global privacy concerns? How do you think it will evolve?
To protect the public, law enforcement agencies should be able to monitor communications by those who may commit serious crimes. The prevalence of the use of encryption technologies of course makes such monitoring incredibly difficult. We need to get the balance right, to protect privacy and the legitimate use of encryption in business, while also providing law enforcement agencies with the powers they need to perform their role. I have confidence that an open and robust debate will ensure we ultimately achieve that balance.
How will the rollout of the consumer data right (CDR) affect businesses operating in Australia?
The CDR has the potential to provide significant benefits to both businesses and consumers in Australia. The CDR’s implementation in banking – the first sector where it is being rolled out – is likely to have an enormous impact, allowing new and existing businesses to offer innovative products and services, as we are already seeing in the UK. It would be great to see the CDR applied to online platforms – consumers will realise significant benefits if they can transfer, and therefore realise value from, the vast amounts of data that digital platforms collect about them.
Australia is seen as a hotbed of class action litigation. Do you think data breach class actions and other mass privacy/data-related litigation will become more common?
Australia’s first privacy class action, which was not directly under the Australian Privacy Act, was settled at the end of 2019. The digital platforms inquiry recommended including a direct right of action in the Australian Privacy Act and the government has supported that recommendation – in principle at least. If that reform proceeds, we can expect increased litigation. Any amendments to the Privacy Act should take on board the work of the recently announcement Parliamentary Committee investigation of class action litigation, to ensure that there is limited risk of an explosion of action in this area that only benefits litigation funders.
What motivated you to return to private practice after your time in Australia’s government?
Working in the Department of Communications and the Arts was a great experience. I was general counsel and first assistant secretary during a very busy time. For example, we worked on the reform of the National Broadband Network rollout in 2013-2015; we undertook a first principles review of the Australian Communications and Media Authority; and it was also a time of significant regulatory reform. There are many great people working with government, making an enormous contribution to Australia. Ultimately I decided my skill set was better suited to private practice, which is why I have returned – though I still love a good policy discussion with my former colleagues!
Angela is a partner in Holding redlich’s technology, media and telecommunications group. Angela has over 20 years’ experience as a partner in private practice and in senior Australian federal government roles including as general counsel and first assistant secretary at the Department of Communications. She has broad commercial law expertise in both transactional and regulatory matters, with a focus on data, telecommunications, media and technology.
Angela's experience includes acting for private sector clients in making submissions to government consultation processes on regulatory reform, providing advice to government agencies in investigations and regulatory enforcement (including in respect of privacy regulation) and advising corporates regarding compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act and other Australian law and regulation, including competition, consumer protection and privacy issues relating to telecommunications, technology and ad tech.
Angela has extensive experience in working with telecommunications companies in providing advice on regulatory compliance (including regarding spectrum licensing, carrier licensing, carrier powers and immunities and compliance with data retention requirements); advising communications companies on compliance with regulatory regimes, including content regulation, Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) licensing requirements and other ACMA engagement; drafting and negotiating telecommunications and IT services contracts and contracts for fixed line and mobile infrastructure delivery and assisting corporates in establishing cyber security frameworks and privacy policies (including advice on digital privacy).
Angela is an officer of the communications law committee of the International Bar Association; a member of the Law Council of Australia media and communications committee; and a member of the Australian management committee for the International Institute of Communications.