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Protecting privacy in a cross-border world

Each year more and more Australians are engaging in transactions and communications with people and companies all over the world; and using personal information in the process.

When you engage or transact online, you have rights under the Australian Privacy Act 1988, which protects and determines how your personal information is collected and managed; regardless of where the business you are dealing with is located.

To ensure your privacy rights are protected when you engage with overseas based businesses, the OAIC is building stronger relationships with privacy authorities from around the globe.

In October 2015, Acting Australian Information Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim attended the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Amsterdam. The event brought together authorities from over 65 countries as well as special administrative regions and institutions.

The meeting allowed vital discussions and debates about the privacy implications of our increasingly interconnected environment. These conversations have already led to a number of initiatives, including Australia joining the Global Cross Border Enforcement Arrangement (GCBECA).

The GCBECA encourages members to work cooperatively on cross border investigations, enables the sharing of confidential case information, and ensures best practices are shared and adopted by all members. Agreements like these have already aided the OAIC to investigate privacy issues and data breaches in the past, and will continue to strengthen our efforts into the future.

To further our cooperation, the OAIC is also working closely with seven international privacy enforcement authorities to build and implement a new information sharing system called Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) Alert. This system will underpin the GCBECA and other agreements by allowing members to securely access and share information. This will enhance and lead to more effective investigations and the resolution of privacy breaches that cross national borders.

We are also keenly focused on the immediate issues within our region and continue to play a significant role in the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA) Forum, of which the OAIC is a founding member.

These relationships, initiatives and agreements give Australian privacy concerns an international perspective, and allow the OAIC to operate across borders through cooperation with privacy authorities from across the globe.

For more information about these agreements and initiatives, see Global Cross Border Enforcement Cooperation Arrangement, GPEN Alert and APPA Forum.