Noise monitors record conversations without permission

Concerns have been raised that coal mine noise pollution monitors are capable of listening in on private conversations.

The Newcastle Herald reported that Glencore has defended the recording of a confrontation between a contractor and a landowner earlier this year.

Glencore recently informed a resident that a noise monitor had recorded them making a threat which allegedly referred to a firearm.

The resident, who remains unnamed, said they were unaware of the identity of the individual, and were alerted to their presence when bright lights shone through their window late at night.

The resident said they were also unaware that the noise monitors could record conversation.

The contractor reported the incident to police, and Glencore said they were co-operating with the investigation.

A spokesperson for Glencore said the company had agreed to a Department of Planning request to access the recording made by the noise monitor.

Noise monitors are used to ensure mines are operating within their environmental consent conditions relating to machinery and blasting noise.

“The monitors give us real-time information that enables us to make changes to operations before any consent conditions are reached,” the spokesperson said.

“Residents living on properties where our noise monitors are located have provided their consent to the equipment being installed at those properties.

“They are informed about the sensitive nature of the equipment at the time of installation and we are in the process of writing to these people to remind them of this.”

Glencore maintained that the Surveillance Devices Act, which rules against certain types of recordings, did apply to unintentionally recorded private conversations.

A compliance officer for the Department of Planning said it was not a defence to breach the Surveillance Devices Act with noise monitoring equipment required by the Environment Planning and Assessment Act.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Banks said the incident also breached the Commonwealth Privacy Act, and that it should be investigated by the federal privacy commissioner.

“There could be an order made for the letter to be retracted and an apology made,” he said.

“There could also be compensation for a sum which reflects the seriousness of the incident.”

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