Message from the Commissioner and other news

Message from the Commissioner


As Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner, I view privacy protections and access to information rights as two sides of the same coin.

Transparency and accountability are the foundation for trust and participation in our democracy. The increasing importance of this interrelationship was canvassed at the recent International Conference of Information Commissioners meeting in Johannesburg.

Transparent and accountable handling of personal information is also the basis for public confidence in the digital economy, which is essential for innovation and economic growth. As I noted at a recent Senate estimates hearing, personal information lies at the heart of a range of important economic and social developments, from the Consumer Data Right to artificial intelligence, as well as regulation of digital platforms.

The commitment to increase penalties and enforcement powers under the Privacy Act is therefore a critical measure to keep personal information safe. The changes announced by the Australian Government last week recognise that existing protections and penalties are falling short of community expectations following exponential growth in trade in personal information. They send a clear message to regulated entities that privacy responsibilities must be taken seriously.

The International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners has also called on online platforms to ensure their systems are effective in protecting privacy, following the tragic events in Christchurch. I joined fellow members of the ICDPPC Executive Committee meeting in London last month to express our deepest sympathies to the people of New Zealand, and to echo the privacy and dignity concerns expressed by New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards.

Privacy Awareness Week from 12-18 May 2019 is another important reminder for organisations and agencies to consider their privacy priorities, and how they are meeting their obligations year round. It's also an opportunity to inform the public about their privacy rights, and how to exercise them.

A final word of thanks to all those who took part in our recent subscriber survey. We will use this information to shape the future of our newsletters and other updates. I look forward to sharing further developments with you as the year progresses.

Angelene Falk
Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner

Privacy Awareness Week 2019

More than 250 organisations have already signed up as supporters for Privacy Awareness Week (PAW) 2019. "Don't be in the dark on privacy" is our central message these year as we focus on privacy priorities throughout the week.

We'll be launching our PAW website soon where you can download resources and ideas to mark the occasion. Sign up to be a supporter using the link below.

Tickets for our PAW Business Breakfast in Sydney will go on sale in April, with a chance to hear from Commissioner Falk on major privacy developments in Australia and around the world. We'll also hear from privacy and cybersecurity experts on how privacy and data security is changing the way we do business. You'll need to be quick as tickets for this event will go fast.

Sign up to our Twitter and Facebook accounts for more regular updates from the OAIC, including for #2019PAW.

Become a supporter

My Health Record privacy controls

Nine in ten Australians now have a My Health Record, and we've released new resources to explain the extra steps you can take to protect your privacy when using the system.

The OAIC oversees the privacy aspects of the My Health Record system, including providing privacy guidance to users and investigating the mishandling of health information in someone's record.

Read more about our role and My Health Record privacy controls at

Notifiable Data Breaches scheme report released

The latest Notifiable Data Breach statistics show malicious or criminal attack remains the leading cause of breaches, followed by human error.

In the December quarter, most data breaches resulting from a malicious or criminal attack involved cyber incidents stemming from compromised credentials, such as phishing and brute-force attacks.

Read more in our news item or the statistics report on our website.

Adoption of the Johannesburg Charter

Members of the International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC) adopted the Johannesburg Charter on 13 March 2019, at their meeting in South Africa. It acknowledges the importance of having a means to collaborate, share information and continue to work between conferences to protect and promote the right to information, both nationally and internationally, to the benefit of citizens.

The Charter establishes the governance framework of the ICIC. It sets out its guiding principles, vision and mission, and values and goals.

You can read the resolution on the ICIC website and watch recordings of the main stage events at the ICIC Conference on the Centre for Human Rights’ Youtube page.

Open Gov Week

Did you know that 11 to 15 March was Open Government Week?

OpenGov Week is an international event designed to encourage citizens to play a role in government decision making.

In Australia, OpenGov Week was celebrated with a Twitter conversation with Open Government Forum co-Chairs Stephanie Foster, (Deputy Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) and Fiona McLeod SC (Chair of the Accountability Roundtable).

Some great conversation ensued including:

  • Interim National Data Commissioner Deb Anton on why data relating to domestic, family and sexual violence against women is critical for developing public policy
  • Stephanie Foster explaining how the Open Government Partnership is working to improve outcomes for indigenous Australians by implementing place-based approaches to ensure all programs are delivering what people really need
  • information about how members of the public can participate in the open government movement.

For more information about OpenGov Week go to their website, and you can read about Australia’s involvement in the Open Government Partnership on the Australian OGP website.

International Association of Privacy Professionals to open Sydney office

A warm welcome to the new Australian Country Leader for the International Association of Privacy Professionals, Stephen Bolinger. The volunteer-run iappANZ officially consolidated with IAPP in December. IAPP is also opening an office in Sydney to support its members and the global growth of the privacy profession.

You can read more on the IAPP website.

Latest Information Commissioner review decisions

The Information Commissioner issued eight Information Commissioner (IC) review decisions and made one vexatious applicant declaration from 31 January 2019 to date. A list of all IC review decisions is available through our website. Full decisions are available on AustLII.

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