First round of amend­ments to the Pri­va­cy Act intro­duced into Parliament

On 23 May 2012, the Com­mon­wealth Gov­ern­ment intro­duced its leg­is­la­tion to imple­ment the first stage of its reforms to Aus­trali­a’s pri­va­cy laws. The Pri­va­cy Amend­ment (Enhanc­ing Pri­va­cy Pro­tec­tion) Bill was intro­duced into Par­lia­ment after a lengthy con­sul­ta­tion and review process, by the Aus­tralian Law Reform Com­mis­sion, the gov­ern­ment and a num­ber of Sen­ate com­mit­tees. We have pre­vi­ous­ly writ­ten about the pro­pos­als for change.

This is the first stage of the Gov­ern­men­t’s respons­es to 197 of the ALR­C’s 295 rec­om­men­da­tions on changes to Aus­tralian pri­va­cy law and practice.

The Bill if imple­ment­ed will do the following:

  1. Cre­ate a uni­fied set of Aus­tralian Pri­va­cy Prin­ci­ples (APPs) that will act as a sin­gle set of rules apply­ing to Com­mon­wealth agen­cies and pri­vate sec­tor organ­i­sa­tions. The APPs will replace the Nation­al Pri­va­cy Prin­ci­ples (NPPs) for the pri­vate sec­tor and the Infor­ma­tion Pri­va­cy Prin­ci­ples (IPPs) for the pub­lic sector.
  2. Improved pri­va­cy pro­tec­tions in the cred­it report­ing pro­vi­sions to ensure greater log­i­cal con­sis­ten­cy, sim­plic­i­ty and clar­i­ty through­out the Act. A key fea­ture of the pro­vi­sions will allow cred­it providers access to addi­tion­al per­son­al infor­ma­tion to assist them in estab­lish­ing an indi­vid­u­al’s cred­it worthiness.
  3. Greater pow­ers grant­ed to the Pri­va­cy Com­mis­sion­er to cre­ate and reg­is­ter codes that are in the pub­lic inter­est in rela­tion to pri­va­cy and cred­it report­ing. These codes will be bind­ing on spec­i­fied agen­cies and organisations.
  4. Increase and clar­i­fy the func­tions and pow­ers of the Pri­va­cy Com­mis­sion­er, includ­ing strength­en­ing pow­ers to resolve complaints.
  5. Busi­ness­es deal­ing with health relat­ed infor­ma­tion will also be held to a high­er standard.
  6. An abil­i­ty to make a com­plaint direct­ly to the Com­mis­sion­er, with­out first hav­ing to com­plain to the busi­ness concerned.

Ulti­mate­ly, the amend­ments seek to pro­vide greater clar­i­ty in rela­tion to pri­va­cy oblig­a­tions of organ­i­sa­tions and pro­vide increased safe­guards for con­sumers in rela­tion to the use of per­son­al infor­ma­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly for direct mar­ket­ing or unso­licit­ed purposes.

If the Bill is approved by both Hous­es of Par­lia­ment, the amend­ments may come into effect in 2013.

The gov­ern­ment will then com­mence on the sec­ond phase of amend­ments, deal­ing with some of the more con­tentious issues raised by the ALRC, includ­ing manda­to­ry report­ing of breach­es, and a cause of action for breach of pri­va­cy.

We will con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor the pas­sage of the amend­ments, and the gov­ern­men­t’s plans for fur­ther changes, but if you have any spe­cif­ic ques­tions please con­tact Swaab Attorneys.

Co-authored by M Hall.