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Customer privacy more important than ever in 2012

Organisations gearing up for the year ahead should make sure their privacy practices are up to date and customers' personal information is secure to avoid embarrassing privacy breaches in 2012.

To coincide with Data Privacy Day, on 28 January, the Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, reminds businesses to review their privacy practices and make sure that staff returning from holidays understand their privacy obligations.

"The effects of a privacy breach on business reputation can be significant.  In 2011 we saw a number of businesses suffer from a loss in consumer confidence after major privacy breaches occurred," Mr Pilgrim said.

"Now, more than ever, businesses need to have strong measures in place to protect their customers' privacy and they need to educate their staff to ensure they are following these procedures. There is no room for lax privacy practices because they will come back to bite.

"When a business suffers a serious privacy breach, it should take an active approach in notifying customers of the situation so they are informed and can take necessary steps to minimise loss and harm.  If a breach is particularly serious, businesses should also notify me."

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has published a Data Breach Guide for businesses and government agencies that suffer from a data breach.

Privacy tips for business

  • Conduct refresher privacy training for staff
  • Audit privacy risks and take steps to mitigate them
  • Update the organisation's privacy policy

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/ and http://www.coe.int/.

Privacy Awareness Week (29 April – 5 May 2012) is the primary privacy awareness and education event in the Asia Pacific region. For more information see www.privacyawarenessweek.org.

Stay Smart Online is an Australian Government initiative, supported by National Cyber Security Awareness Week (4 June – 8 June 2012), to help Australians understand the simple steps they can take to protect their personal and financial information online. Visit www.staysmartonline.gov.au for easy to understand information and safety tips for small businesses.

Media enquiries: Leila Daniels 0407 663 968 or media@oaic.gov.au