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Australian Government - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner - Home

Question 1

Is your complaint about information that contains:

  • your name; or
  • other details so that people would know it is about you?

An example of information that identifies you even though it does not include your name could be a photograph of you published in your gym's newsletter from which your friends can tell it is you, just from looking at the photograph.

An example of information that does not identify you could be a personal email address, for example, as long as it doesn't contain or link to your real name.


Sorry, it is unlikely that the Commissioner can investigate your complaint. Your complaint must involve personal information about you. Further information

Further information

The Privacy Act deals with information privacy; it provides rules for the handling of personal information in records. It does not apply to other aspects of privacy for example,

  • surveillance, where your identity cannot be established or information is not recorded
  • bodily privacy, such as a lack of private space for providing a bodily sample to a general medical practitioner, or a frisk search at an airport.

The Privacy Act says:

Personal information means information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable:
  1. whether the information or opinion is true or not; and
  2. whether the information or opinion is recorded in material form or not.

Also, your complaint must be about how a respondent has treated your personal information, not about the treatment of someone else's personal information. You can help someone else make a complaint, but only with their consent (Section of the Privacy Act to read: 36).

If you wish to tell the Commissioner about an act or practice which may be an interference with someone else's privacy, the Commissioner may be able to investigate that matter (Section of the Privacy Act to read: 40(2)).

The Privacy Act does not apply to personal information about deceased people.

Key points

  • Your complaint must involve personal information about you, such as your name or enough information so that people would know it is about you.
  • You may have your own representative, or you may represent someone else with their consent.
  • Serious breaches of the Privacy Act involving other people's personal information may be investigated by the Commissioner even if the other person does not make a complaint themselves.
  • Personal information about deceased people is not protected by the Privacy Act.