Political correctness is in danger of making a nonsense of privacy laws. The Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance has been the subject of numerous complaints since it was introduced three years ago and has led to more red tape in the administration. Social welfare staff, for example, complained of having to contact the Privacy Commissioner before checking with other departments about applicants for public assistance. But until now the misunderstandings of the provisions have been irritating rather than serious. An announcement by the police that they will no longer release names of suspects and victims in criminal cases is much more problematical. There can be no question that publication is a matter of public interest. The protection of anonymity offered to victims in sex cases is a different matter. Details offered as evidence in courts can be extremely distressing, and that is more than enough reason to safeguard the identity of those who have already undergone the ordeal of rape or sexual assault. Where children are victims, it is also necessary to withhold the name of the perpetrator, since that can often point to the identity of the child. But the run-of-the-mill cases that fill newspapers come into a different category. If journalists cannot have the names of suspects and others caught up in their crimes, the media will be unable to do its job properly. Reporters cannot check on the names of casualties, because without details from the Information Services Department, hospitals will not give out progress reports on a patient's condition. Even the identity of a pedestrian injured in a road accident will be off-limits. But since publication itself is not against the law, reporters will have to play detective to track down those involved, with all the potential for errors that would entail. This police decision is peremptory, counter-productive and inexplicable. It is not in line with the guidelines of the Privacy Commissioner, or with common practice elsewhere. In fact, the commissioner is of the view that as incomplete names are not deemed as personal data, their disclosure does not breach privacy laws. In the current climate of suspicion, the police move may be interpreted as a blow against press freedom. It will be better for all concerned if the police return forthwith to their customary practice of providing information that is in the public interest.