Skip to main content
Skip to secondary navigation
Australian Government - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner - Home

Welcome to Privacy Awareness Week

Presentation by John McMillan to PAW launch, Sydney

Good morning, and welcome to Privacy Awareness Week 2015. My name is John McMillan, the Australian Information Commissioner.

I’m delighted to be welcoming a full house — a sold-out breakfast — to another Privacy Awareness Week. It’s great to see many familiar faces and supporters joined by a new and expanding community of privacy professionals.

May I begin by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respects to their Elders both past and present.

May I acknowledge the participation in this launch event of people who have a special working relationship with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) — Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission; Padman Raman, Executive Director of the Australian Human Rights Commission; Dr Elizabeth Coombs, NSW Privacy Commissioner; Chris Chapman, Chair of the Australian Communications & Media Authority; iappANZ special guest Professor Fred H. Cate from Indiana University and our expert panel: Mark Pesce, Mia Garlick from Facebook, Dr Mark Burdon from University of Queensland, Chris Duckett from ZDNet and Dr Christine O’Keefe from the CSIRO.

Privacy Awareness Week 2014 coincided with the commencement six weeks previously of important new privacy rules and principles that markedly changed privacy regulation in Australia. A year later, the legislative changes have been fully implemented, privacy guidance and practices have been fine-tuned, and privacy awareness is a familiar and topical theme in government, industry and the community. It has been a busy and rewarding year for all of us.

The OAIC has played a leadership role over the last 18 months in implementing the legislative changes. Activities that have occupied our attention have included publishing regulatory instruments and critical guidance material, consulting widely to ensure that privacy guidance is practicable and does not place an undue regulatory burden on organisations, and promoting key messages about the importance of privacy protection and that good privacy practice is good business.

Above all, our dual aim is to assist organisations to build capability and trust, and to assist the community to act wisely and confidently in safeguarding their own privacy. This requires practical guidance, and the development of precedents around the interpretation of ‘reasonable security steps’ and ‘notice and consent’ should be very useful to you. Our guidance and messages must be continually refined, and this is where we draw heavily on the experience and support of people and organisations that are represented here today.

The OAIC was given important new regulatory powers in the reforms that commenced in 2014. We believe these powers were given for a purpose and should be exercised in appropriate circumstances. In the last year, for example, we have issued our first enforceable undertaking, conducted Commissioner initiated investigations, and the Privacy Commissioner has made more determinations than in any previous year.

The public landscape portrays a new prominence in privacy discussion and privacy challenges. Privacy is a headline news item in daily reports on matters as varied as high-profile data breaches and new technology that uses personal information in ways never previously imagined.

The theme for Privacy Awareness Week 2015 is Privacy everyday. This theme emphasises the need for organisations to embed privacy practices into usual business processes (‘privacy by design’ is a familiar catchphrase), and for individuals and the community to think about how to protect privacy in their everyday lives.

Privacy everyday is a relevant and contemporary message. It speaks to the challenges we face. As we transact and interact more in an online environment, as we embrace a digital world where more data can and is being stored and used, and as we discover new value and applications for personal information, we see that privacy issues are intertwined with all aspects of our business and personal life.

Privacy Awareness Week, and this launch breakfast, provides an excellent opportunity to recognise and discuss the fact that privacy, how we understand it, and how we protect it, is changing and evolving. The landscape is dynamic.

This morning, the Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, will give you some insights into how our office is moving forward with this task, how we will be helping you, and laying out some of our expectations for our future relationship with the organisations that we regulate. In introducing Timothy, may I congratulate Timothy on receiving a Public Service Medal (PSM) in the Australia Day 2015 Honours List. Appropriately, the citation for Timothy’s PSM reads: ‘For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of major reforms to the Privacy Act 1988’. Please join me in welcoming and congratulating Timothy.