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Privacy breaches — simple mistakes can do the most damage

While high-tech privacy breaches like internet hacks attract headlines, it’s important to remember that many privacy breaches are caused by the simplest human errors. A folder gets left on a bus, someone is wrongly copied into an email, or files are dumped that should have been shredded. These simple mistakes can and do happen, and the privacy consequences are just as damaging for individuals and businesses alike.

The five most recent determinations by the Australian Privacy Commissioner have differing stories, but are all cases of ‘low tech’ privacy breaches resulting from human error or basic failures in business management. They demonstrate how privacy obligations are part of everyday business management – not just ‘an IT issue’ – and remind business leaders that data breach risks often lie not with some unknown hacker, but with their own staff and processes.

If you’re a business, the OAIC has helpful resources available for all organisations to help you secure personal information and train your staff in their obligations under the Privacy Act 1988. And if you’re an individual who’s concerned your privacy has been breached, you can contact us for free advice or to make a complaint.