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Find out the truth about your privacy rights

With a third of Australians reporting they had a privacy problem in the last year, and almost 3000 privacy complaints received by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in the last 12 months, Privacy Awareness Week (4–10 May 2014) is the perfect time for people to find out about their privacy rights under new privacy laws.

Privacy laws changed on 12 March 2014. The changes include a new set of Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) which set out how private sector organisations and federal Australian Government agencies covered by the Privacy Act 1988 must handle people’s personal information, as well as changes to the way credit information can be collected, used and disclosed.

Under the new privacy laws, it is easier for people to:

  • 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) has produced Privacy fact sheet 24: How changes to privacy law affect you to assist people understand what the new privacy law changes mean for them.

‘We are letting people know that if they don’t want to receive direct marketing, they can opt out and ask where the organisation got their personal information. We are also encouraging people to check that the information held about them is correct, and if it isn’t to ask for it to be corrected’, Mr Pilgrim said.

Entities covered by the Privacy Act must now have a clearly expressed and up-to-date privacy policy explaining what they are going to do with people’s personal information.

‘Our research shows that 95% of Australians want to know how their information is handled on a day-to-day basis. Privacy policies assist here, and allow individuals to make informed decisions about their privacy. So we are using Privacy Awareness Week to remind people to read privacy policies and notices to find out what will happen to their personal information,’ said Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.

‘Privacy policies can often be long and difficult to read but they contain useful details about what will happen to your personal information if it is collected by an organisation. If you can’t find this type of information in a privacy policy I encourage you to follow up with the organisation and ask why not? Organisations must be up front and personal with their customers about how they handle their personal information,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

There have also been major changes to credit reporting laws, including the introduction of more comprehensive credit reporting and a simplified correction and complaints process.

‘People have been particularly concerned about the collection of their repayment history. Under the new laws, information about a missed payment that is more than 14 days late can be passed on to credit reporting agencies. The changes to the credit reporting laws are significant and have the potential to affect people’s ability to obtain credit in the future, so we are launching a series of fact sheets to explain these changes,’ said Mr Pilgrim.

For interview requests please contact: Ms Leila Daniels     0407 663 968     media@oaic.gov.au

Background notes for Editors

Privacy Awareness Week (4–10 May 2014) is the primary privacy awareness and education event in the Asia Pacific region.

Media are invited to attend a launch event to be held on Monday 5 May from 7.30–9.30am at the Westin Hotel, Sydney. The theme of the event is Up front and personal — focusing on the need for organisations to be transparent about their privacy practices and to build an organisation culture that respects customer privacy. More details about the event are available here: http://www.oaic.gov.au/news-and-events/privacy-awareness-week-2014/what-s-on-2014/paw-business-breakfast-2014

Media passes are available for this event. To register please contact media@oaic.gov.au

Tips for consumers — What to look out for in a privacy policy

Before sharing personal information, the OAIC encourages individuals to read an organisation’s privacy policy to find out:

  • what personal information is collected
  • how your personal information will be used and disclosed
  • if sensitive information is likely to be collected
  • how personal information is stored and managed
  • if your personal information is likely to be shared with a third party
  • how you can access and correct your personal information
  • if personal information will be disclosed overseas
  • how you can make privacy complaint

The OAIC’s poster What to look for in a privacy policy is available here: http://www.oaic.gov.au/news-and-events/privacy-awareness-week-2014/resources-2014#posters

Privacy fact sheet 24: How changes to privacy law affect you is available here: http://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/privacy-resources/privacy-fact-sheets/other/privacy-fact-sheet-24-how-changes-to-privacy-law-affect-you

This fact sheet is available in 11 community languages.

Fact sheets on credit reporting changes will be available from 7 May 2014.

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

The OAIC’s 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey results can be accessed here: http://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/privacy-resources/privacy-reports/oaic-community-attitudes-to-privacy-survey-research-report-2013