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Privacy Law Reform

Janice Yew | October 21st, 2015

In less than 12 months significant changes to Australia’s privacy laws will come into force. Alana Long, a Trade Mark and Intellectual Property lawyer at mdp, reviews these reforms to help clients prepare for March 2014, when the changes come into effect.

The new laws will bring about changes in three main areas:

  • The introduction of a unified set of Australian Privacy Principles (APPs);
  • the introduction of comprehensive credit reporting; and
  • enhanced powers for the Commissioner.

The introduction of the APPs and the enhanced powers of the Commissioner are of particular importance to our clients.

The APPs will be introduced to replace the current National Privacy Principles for those private sector organisations covered by the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (“the Act”) and the Information Privacy Principles for Australian government agencies. There are a number of important changes with the introduction of the APPs, including in the areas of direct marketing, overseas disclosure of personal information and the handling of unsolicited information.

Importantly, under Australian Privacy Principle 8 “Cross-border disclosure of personal information” both government agencies and private organisations will remain accountable for the handling of personal information that is transferred overseas unless a series of criteria are met. This is particularly important if you use any cloud computing services, as many of the services providing these services are located overseas.

The seriousness with which privacy is treated in Australia is reflected in the Commissioner’s new powers to conduct Performance Assessments of private sector organisations to determine whether they are handling personal information in accordance with the new APPs and other rules and codes. The Commissioner will be able to conduct these assessments at any time – an added incentive for organisations to ensure they are handling personal information in accordance with the Act.

There are a number of steps you can take now to prepare for the changes to the Act, including the review of:

  • Privacy policies and collection notices;
  • systems, practices, procedures and staff training;
  • outsourcing arrangements, particularly if these involve the disclosure of personal information outside Australia (e.g. cloud computing arrangements); and
  • direct marketing practices, including the availability of ‘opt out’ mechanisms.

Please contact us on 03 9620 9660 if you have any questions or require further information.

Janice Yew

Janice Yew

Lawyer, BCom JD at mdp
Janice joined mdp in 2013 as a law clerk while completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Melbourne. In 2015, she came onboard full-time as a law graduate, and started working in the firm’s property, commercial and intellectual property practices.
Janice Yew

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