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Know your rights under new privacy laws

In just nine months time, Australian privacy laws are set to change and Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim wants Australians to understand what this means for them and their privacy rights.

More transparency

Importantly, from March 2014 businesses and federal government agencies covered by the Privacy Act 1988 will have to be more transparent about how they handle personal information.

‘These entities will need to have a privacy policy that tells you how they handle your personal information, whether they are likely to send your information overseas and how to complain about a privacy breach. These new requirements are a welcome development as privacy policies help people make choices about how they want their personal information handled,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

Changes to direct marketing

The way in which people’s personal information can be used for direct marketing will change. In some circumstances, businesses will be required to allow people to opt out of receiving direct marketing. People will also be able to ask an organistion to tell them where they got their personal information from.

‘For the first time, the Privacy Act will give people the right to ask “where did you get my personal information?” and in many circumstances require the organisation to respond within a reasonable period and free of charge’.

Some of the biggest changes are to the credit reporting system

Five new kinds of credit-related personal information including your repayment history will be able to be collected by credit reporting agencies and passed onto lenders.

It is also important to remember that you can request a copy of your credit reporting file for free in most circumstances. If you believe that the information is incorrect then you should ask the credit provider or credit reporting agency to correct this.

‘If you are not satisfied with their response you can complain to our office or bodies such as the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. You don’t need to pay for these services. Consumer credit legal centres can also help,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

Financial Penalties for breaches

The new privacy laws will also give the Commissioner new powers to resolve complaints and investigations, including the ability to impose penalties on organisations of up to $1.7 million.

‘Last financial year we received over 1300 privacy complaints, which demonstrates that Australians are not afraid to exercise their rights in this area. I will continue to resolve the majority of complaints by conciliation, but where appropriate, I will not hesitate to use the new powers where necessary.’

If someone has a privacy complaint about an organisation, they must first advise that organisation. If a response is not received or the response is unsatisfactory the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner can accept a complaint.

For interview requests: Ms Leila Daniels     0407 663 968

Notes for editors

10 privacy tips for individuals

  • Know your privacy rights
  • Read privacy policies and noticies to find out how your personal information will be used
  • Only give out as much personal information as you need to
  • Ask for access to your personal information
  • Make sure the information an organisation or agency holds about you is accurate and up to date
  • Take steps to protect your online privacy
  • Make sure your hard copy records are properly destroyed
  • You can ‘opt out' if you do not want to have further contact with the organisation
  • If you are not happy you can make a complaint.

For more information, see the OAIC’s 10 steps to protect your personal information to assist individuals understand their privacy rights.

Other privacy tips

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

Infographic on technology and privacy

This year the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) have teamed up to talk about why privacy matters in today’s digital world, creating an infographic that shows how evolving technologies create new privacy risks and how citizens and regulators are taking action to protect privacy. The infographic is available to view and share on the APPA Privacy Awareness Week website as well as the OAIC website.