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Privacy Awareness Week ends, global sweep of apps begins!

Privacy Awareness Week 2014 ends tomorrow. However, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is reminding business, government agencies and the community to focus on privacy all year.

‘A third of Australians have reported they had a privacy problem in the last year, and the OAIC has received almost 3000 privacy complaints in the last 12 months — a 50% increase on the previous year. The message is clear: people care about their privacy, and organisations and agencies should take this seriously,’ said Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.

The week started with a business event focusing on the privacy rights of customers and reforms to the Privacy Act 1988 that commenced on 12 March 2014. The Australian Information Commissioner, Prof John McMillan launched two new OAIC publications: Guide to developing an APP privacy policy and the Guide to undertaking privacy impact assessments (see the Guide summaries on the OAIC website).

Much of the week’s activity was focused on raising awareness among the community about their privacy rights under the new laws. The OAIC released Privacy fact sheet 24: How changes to privacy law affect you in 11 community languages to assist people understand what the changes mean for them.

‘Our fact sheet provides a lot of useful information including how people can opt out if they don’t want to receive direct marketing or check that the information held about them is correct, and if it isn’t ask for it to be corrected’, Timothy Pilgrim said.

‘I want people to feel confident about exercising their privacy rights. The privacy reforms have helped with this. For example, organisations need to have a privacy policy that tells people more about how they handle personal information. We have produced a great resource called What to look for in a privacy policy to help people find the information they need to make informed decisions about the protection of their privacy,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

People have been particularly concerned about changes to credit reporting laws, in particular, 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.  These changes are complex and can affect people’s ability to obtain credit in the future, so the OAIC has released a series of 15 fact sheets to explain these changes to the community.

‘Next week, the OAIC will join 27 privacy authorities around the world to examine mobile apps to identify privacy issues. We will examine 50 of Australia’s most popular apps. This includes checking if the app explains why it collects personal information and what it will do with it. I look forward to sharing the results of the sweep later this year,’ Timothy Pilgrim said.

Mobile apps were chosen as the focus of the sweep because many privacy enforcement authorities have identified them as a key area of focus in light of the privacy implications they have for consumers. Mobile apps, many of which collect a great deal of personal information, have exploded in popularity around the world.

Media contact:     Ms Leila Daniels     0407 663 968

Notes for editors

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

For information about the OAIC’s Privacy Awareness Week campaign, see

GPEN privacy sweep

The second Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) Privacy Sweep will take place from 12 to 18 May 2014. GPEN was established to foster cross-border cooperation among privacy authorities.

This year, 27 privacy enforcement authorities are participating in the Sweep — up from 19 in 2013. Participating authorities will participate in a coordinated effort to examine privacy issues related to mobile applications.

Participants will be looking at the types of permissions an app is seeking and whether those permissions exceed what would be expected based on the app’s functionality, but also how the app explains to consumers why it wants the information and what it will do with it.

Concerns identified during the Sweep may result in follow-up work such as outreach to organisations and/or enforcement actions. The goals of the Sweep initiative include: increasing public and business awareness of privacy rights and responsibilities, encouraging compliance with privacy legislation, identifying concerns which may be addressed with targeted education and/or enforcement, and enhancing cooperation amongst privacy enforcement authorities.

The results of this year’s Sweep will be compiled and made public later in 2014.