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Australian Privacy Commissioner: 2013 — a big year for privacy

Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim is advising Australians that 2013 is shaping up to be the biggest year for privacy in over 20 years. In recognition of Data Privacy Day, held on 28 January 2013, Mr Pilgrim is reminding Australians to take steps to protect their privacy and control their digital footprint.

‘In the age of big data, social media and cloud computing, it is increasingly important that people think about the concept of privacy and what it means to them. I am concerned that people aren’t considering the potential risks of disclosing too much personal information, particularly when engaging online,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

‘Organisations should also be vigilant about privacy, in particular, the protection of personal information entrusted to them by their customers. With regular reports of data breaches and their impact on individuals as well as on business reputation, the importance of getting privacy right cannot be underestimated.’

2013 will be a significant year for businesses and government agencies as they prepare for major changes to the Privacy Act 1988. The changes include the introduction of a single set of Australia Privacy Principles, new credit reporting laws, and enhanced enforcement powers for the Privacy Commissioner to promote, and where necessary, enforce privacy compliance.

‘The new laws are an important milestone for privacy in Australia. Organisations should be considering what changes they may need to make to their policies, systems and processes,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

To prepare for the  changes that will commence in March 2014, the OAIC recommends that businesses and government agencies should review:

  • privacy policies and information collection notices
  • any outsourcing arrangements that might be in place, particularly if these involve the disclosure of personal information outside Australia
  • direct marketing practices, including the availability of ‘opt out’ mechanisms.

Over the coming months, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) will produce detailed guidance to assist businesses and agencies understand the impact of the reforms and make the necessary changes to their personal information handling practices.

‘The OAIC will be conducting targeted and public consultation on some of the guidance we produce. We will be talking to industry bodies and consumer groups, so I encourage anyone with an interest in this area to participate. If businesses and government agenices start preparing now, there should be no reason why they won’t be ready to meet their new responsibilities by March 2014,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

For more information on privacy law reform visit www.oaic.gov.au.

Businesses can keep informed about privacy law reform developments by joining the OAIC’s Privacy Connections network. Email: corporate@oaic.gov.au

Upcoming privacy awareness events

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

Privacy Awareness Week (28 April – 4 May 2013) 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 – 0407 663 968 or media@oaic.gov.au