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Roger Clarke's 'PIAs - Past, Present & Future'

The Search for Balance:
The Past, Present and Future
of Privacy Impact Assessments

Roger Clarke

Principal, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra

Visiting Professor, Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre, University of N.S.W.

Visiting Professor, E-Commerce Programme, University of Hong Kong

Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University

Abstract and Slides for a Presentation at Queens University, Kingston ON, on 9 June 2004

Version of 16 May 2004

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2004

Available under an AEShareNet Free
for Education licence

This document is at

The PowerPoint slide presentation is at


Applications of privacy-invasive technologies (the PITs) abound. Yet Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) are becoming mainstreamed and engrained. This presentation commences by searching out the origins of PIAs in technology assessment and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).

An outline is then provided of the nature, objectives, and process of PIAs. Attention is drawn to the need for multiple perspectives, for the participation of the people affected by the proposal, and for consultative processes involving representatives of those people and advocates for their interests. Drawing on the last decade's experiences, key features are identified that make or break a PIA process.

The motivations for conducting a PIA are then examined. It is shown that the gains are not all on one side. There are good reasons for business enterprises and government agencies to apply the technique.

Finally, attention is drawn to some limitations of PIAs, with a view to stimulating discussion on whether and how constraints can be imposed on the many PITs that currently confront society.


Clarke R. (1995) 'Computer Matching by Government Agencies: The Failure of Cost/Benefit Analysis as a Control Mechanism', Informatization and the Public Sector (March 1995), in particular the section on Cost/Benefit Analysis, at

Clarke R. (1996) 'Privacy and Dataveillance, and Organisational Strategy', Proc. Conf. I.S. Audit & Control Association (EDPAC'96), Perth, 28 May 1996, at

Clarke R. (1998) 'Privacy Impact Assessments', Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 10 February 1998, at

Clarke R. (2004) 'A History of Privacy Impact Assessments', Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 5 February 2004, at

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The content and infrastructure for these community service pages are provided by Roger Clarke through his consultancy company, Xamax.

From the site's beginnings in August 1994 until February 2009, the infrastructure was provided by the Australian National University. During that time, the site accumulated close to 30 million hits. It passed 65 million in early 2021.

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Created: 11 May 2004 - Last Amended: 16 May 2004 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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