Speech by the Information Privacy Commissioner – Information Law and Policy – the reform agenda

March 24, 2011 |

Yesterday John McMillan, the Australian Information Commissioner, gave a wide ranging speech to the AGS National Information Law Conference.  It is a very interesting and useful read.

Some of the key issues on the privacy front was his comments about the number of complaints:

It is a vibrant area of activity, spanning the private as well as the public sector. The office receives close to 5000 privacy inquiries per year, nearly 1200 written complaints, it conducts 70 own motion investigations, and receives 60 data breach notifications. It publishes extensive guidelines and fact sheets, and is a frequent commentator on privacy issues in the media.ab

and amending the Privacy Act:

The first Bills to emerge from that process are in exposure draft legislation that is currently before the Australian Parliament. These Bills propose a new set of Australian Privacy Principles (or APPs), to replace the Information Privacy Principles that apply to government agencies and the National Privacy Principles that apply to the business sector. The adoption of a universal set of 13 privacy principles will sharpen privacy protection in Australia, while making it simpler for government contractors to comply with a single set of legal obligations.

and greater enforcement powers:

Looking ahead, the Government has announced its intention to strengthen the Privacy Commissioner’s powers, to make enforceable determinations, to seek (through a court) a civil penalty for serious or repeated privacy offences, and to accept and enforce undertakings given by government agencies and private entities. The prospect of civil penalties for privacy breaches will provide an added incentive for organisations to take their privacy responsibilities seriously.

Interestingly there is no mention of giving individuals an enforceable and actionable right to privacy.  That has been a consistent recommendation of law reform reports in the last 10 years.


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