Australians' right to privacy strengthened with new privacy laws

Today is Data Privacy Day and a timely opportunity to remind Australians that new privacy laws start on 12 March 2014. The new laws will apply to Australian Government agencies, private sector businesses and not-for profit organisations covered by the Privacy Act 1988.

‘With the introduction of new privacy laws, people’s privacy rights will be enhanced and strengthened in areas such as direct marketing, the disclosure of personal information overseas and requesting access to and correction of personal information held by an organisation,’ Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said.

From 12 March 2014 new privacy laws mean that Australians can more easily:

  • ask an organisation where they collected their personal information from (in response to receiving direct marketing)
  • opt out of receiving direct marketing communications from organisations
  • find out if their personal information will be sent overseas
  • request access to their personal information held by an organisation or agency
  • request a correction to their personal information held by an organisation or agency

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) will focus on public education during the upcoming Privacy Awareness Week campaign (4–10 May 2014), the primary privacy awareness and education event in the Asia Pacific region.

‘Privacy Awareness Week 2014 will be about making sure people understand how to exercise their new and existing rights,’ Mr Pilgrim said.  

The OAIC’s recent 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey results show Australians are becoming more concerned about privacy risks. People expect the organisations they deal with to take effective steps to safeguard their personal information. For example, just over 60% of Australians have decided to not deal with an organisation because of privacy concerns, which is an increase from just over 40% in 2007.

At the same time an increasing number (82%) of Australians are aware of federal privacy laws, and 96% of them feel that they should be informed of how their information is handled and protected, and if it is lost.

‘The new laws see a greater responsibility put on businesses and Australian Government agencies to be more transparent about how they handle personal information,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

‘Being up front with customers and having good privacy practices in place makes good business sense. Organisations will now be required to have a clearly expressed and up to date privacy policy about the way they handle personal information.

‘Everyone should take an active interest in protecting their privacy and read an organisation’s privacy policy to decide whether they want to do business with that organisation. I’m encouraging people to be aware of the changes to privacy laws so that they will have greater confidence in their ability to exercise their privacy rights.’

The new privacy laws will also give the Commissioners new powers to resolve privacy complaints and investigations, including the ability to accept enforceable undertakings from agencies and organisations and, in serious or repeated cases, seek a penalty of up to $1.7 million.

Background notes for Editors

For more information on privacy law reform see: http://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/privacy-act/privacy-law-reform.

The full report for the OAIC’s 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey results can be accessed here: www.oaic.gov.au/community-attitudes.

Data Privacy Day is an international awareness day (primarily celebrated in the United States, Canada and Europe) to provide education about information privacy. For more information see www.staysafeonline.org/dpd/.

Privacy Awareness Week (4–10 May 2014) is the primary privacy awareness and education event in the Asia Pacific region. For more information see www.privacyawarenessweek.org.

Media contact: Ms Leila Daniels media@oaic.gov.au

Changes to privacy law

Content found in this section or on this page may no longer reflect the current law.

> Read more: Privacy law reform

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