Shake-up of Privacy Laws


Shake-up of Privacy Laws

On 23 May, privacy law reform took a step closer with the introduction of the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 into Parliament. The Bill stems from the 2008 Australian Law Reform Commission report, “For Your Information:

Australian Privacy Law and Practice”, of which more than half of the 295 recommendations have been implemented into the Bill. As the world becomes increasingly integrated online, there are increased risks in the handling of personal information. The Bill seeks to give people more information on how their personal details are being used on the internet through implementing rules around how companies and organisations can collect, use and disclose personal information.

One of the main changes under the Bill is the creation of the Australian Privacy Principles (“APPs”), a single set of privacy principles applying to both Commonwealth agencies and private sector organisations, which replace the Information Privacy Principles for the public sector and the National Privacy Principles
for the private sector.

Other key changes include:

  • Clearer and tighter regulation of the use of personal information for direct marketing
  • Extending privacy protections to unsolicited information
  • Making it easier for consumers to access and correct information held about them
  • Tightening the rules on sending personal information outside Australia
  • A higher standard of protection to be afforded to “sensitive information” – which includes health-related information
  • Enhancing the power of the Privacy Commissioner to improve the Commissioner’s ability to resolve company privacy compliance and
  • Giving individuals more power to opt out of receiving direct marketing materials.

The changes introduced by the Bill are the biggest reforms to the privacy law in 24 years. There will be a new requirement in the APPs for organisations and companies to develop detailed privacy policies and make them clear and easily accessible to consumers.

The Bill also makes it easier for consumers to access and correct their personal credit information. The legislation will increase the amount of personal credit information available to credit agencies and mortgage providers.

The Bill also increases the powers of the Australian Privacy Commissioner to resolve complaints, conduct investigations and promote privacy compliance. The Privacy Commissioner will have new powers, including the power to seek enforceable remedies for consumers who have had their privacy breached.
The Bill is still subject to amendments by Parliament. The Bill will commence nine months after it receives royal assent.

We will be providing further information on the Bill in the near future.