Annual Report 2014–15: working with government, business and communities to protect Australian privacy

26 October 2015
Tags: media release

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has today released its 2014–15 Annual Report. The report highlights the OAIC’s significant achievements in privacy and freedom of information (FOI) regulation.

‘In terms of our privacy functions, the OAIC’s focus this year was on working collaboratively with business, Australian Government agencies and consumer groups to embed the most significant reforms to the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) since its enactment,’ said Acting Australian Information Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim.

The OAIC produced a comprehensive range of privacy resources to assist both businesses and individuals to understand their rights and obligations under the amended Privacy Act. These included the OAIC’s Privacy Management Framework, launched during Privacy Awareness Week in May 2015.

‘The framework will assist businesses and government to achieve good privacy practice by embedding a culture of privacy into their everyday processes. We are also helping consumers to understand their privacy rights through a range of accessible, plain-English, publications,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

The OAIC continued to deal with a significant workload in its privacy regulatory activities; handling 16,166 privacy enquiries, finalising 1976 privacy complaints, conducting four Commissioner initiated investigations and receiving 110 voluntary data breach notifications — a 64% increase from the previous year.

‘Throughout the year, I exercised a number of the new enforcement powers that were given to me by the privacy reforms. This included conducting privacy assessments of businesses and accepting the first enforceable undertaking made under the amended Privacy Act,’ said Mr Pilgrim.

The OAIC demonstrated its commitment to openness and transparency in its privacy regulatory activities by releasing its Privacy Regulatory Action Policy and complimentary Guide to Privacy Regulatory Action, which explain the OAIC’s range of privacy regulatory powers and its approach to using these powers.

‘The OAIC made excellent progress in resolving FOI matters, successfully implementing a streamlined Information Commissioner review (IC review) process, which focuses on early resolution. This process has significantly reduced the backlog of IC reviews that existed at the start of the reporting year and assisted in increasing the number of IC review decisions made during the period — 128, up from 98 in the previous financial year,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

The OAIC finalised 482 applications for IC review, 64 FOI complaints, 4384 extension of time requests and notifications, and responded to 1900 FOI related enquiries.

The OAIC’s 2014–15 Annual Report records high levels of activity across the FOI system. Agencies and ministers covered by the FOI Act received 35,550 FOI requests in 2014–15, an increase of 24.9% on the previous year. Agencies and ministers determined 25.5% more requests and finalised 22.5% more requests in 2014–15 than in the previous reporting period, with access to documents granted in full or in part in just over 89% of all requests determined.

The OAIC continued to work with international privacy and data protection regulators to build collaborative relationships, keep abreast of emerging international privacy protection issues and enhance global regulatory cooperation.

‘The achievements of the OAIC this year highlight the diligence and professionalism of OAIC staff. Despite a challenging environment, the OAIC continued to deliver on both its privacy and FOI functions for the Australian community,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

‘I would also like to acknowledge the leadership shown by the inaugural Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, and the contribution and support of the former FOI Commissioner, Dr James Popple. The commitment of Professor McMillan and Dr Popple to open, transparent and responsible information management practices by government in the public interest will no doubt be carried with them to their new roles as NSW Ombudsman and Member in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

Media contact: Ms Sarah Croxall       0407 663 968

Background information

Annual Report 2014–15

The OAIC’s 2014–15 Annual Report can be accessed here:

Key statistics

In 2014–15 the OAIC:

  • handled 14,640 phone enquiries
  • answered 3409 written enquiries
  • finalised 1976 privacy complaints
  • received 117 data breach notifications (including 110 voluntary data breach
  • notifications)
  • commenced four Commissioner initiated investigations
  • commenced 12 privacy assessments involving 85 entities
  • finalised 482 applications for IC review
  • finalised 64 freedom of information (FOI) complaints
  • finalised 4384 extension of time notifications and requests
  • issued seven privacy determinations
  • coordinated a successful annual national Privacy Awareness Week campaign
  • published 32 pieces of privacy guidance material
  • conducted seven public consultations
  • provided 197 pieces of external policy advice
  • made 36 submissions on legislative or other formal policy development processes
  • made six legislative instruments
  • delivered 36 speeches and presentations.

Operational information

In May 2014, the Australian Government announced its intention to disband the OAIC and put in place new arrangements for the administration of FOI and privacy. To date, the Freedom of Information Amendment (New Arrangements) Bill 2014 has not been considered by the Senate. As such, the OAIC continues to undertake the full breadth of privacy functions, and to carry out the FOI IC review function.

FOI complaints have been handled by the Commonwealth Ombudsman since 1 November 2014, and FOI policy activities are currently being undertaken by the Attorney-General’s Department.

Due to resourcing constraints, the OAIC has not undertaken a specific work program in relation to its information policy functions. However, information policy issues form part of the OAIC’s privacy and freedom of information work generally.

Resources have been provided to the OAIC for the exercise of the FOI IC review function for 2015–16. Funding for the privacy functions has been appropriated to the OAIC for the period 2015–16. The OAIC’s budget allocation for 2015–16 does not include activities in the area of information policy. 

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