Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 passed by the House of Representatives yesterday

September 18, 2012 |

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed yesterday. As is the way of it the Attorney General has issued a media release, which provides:

The House of Representatives has today passed important reforms to the Privacy Act 1988 that will better protect people’s personal information, simplify credit reporting arrangements and strengthen enforcement powers of the Privacy Commissioner.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said that these reforms represent the most significant changes to the Act since Labor introduced the Privacy Act in 1988.

 “Australians right around the country  are sharing their personal information more than ever before—whether that be by paying our bills online, buying some footy tickets for the weekend, or connecting with friends and family through social media.

 “Both consumers and governments have a role to play to protect privacy. In introducing these changes, the Gillard Government is doing its bit to protect the privacy of Australian families.

 “These new privacy laws focus on giving power back to consumers over how organisations use their personal information.

 “These changes will also provide much more power to consumers to be able to access and, if necessary, correct their credit reports.

 “The House Committee has found that the reforms should be passed in their current form and the Government has moved quickly to implement those wishes,” Ms Roxon said.

The reforms are particularly designed to benefit consumers through changes that include:

•        clearer and tighter regulation of the use of personal information for direct marketing

•        an up-to-date and modern credit reporting system

•        making it easier for consumers to access and correct information held about them, including on their credit reports

•        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, DNA and biometric data.

 Through the reforms the powers of the Privacy Commissioner’s will also be enhanced to improve the Commissioner’s ability to resolve complaints, conduct investigations and promote privacy compliance. For example, the Commissioner will also be able to apply to the court for a civil penalty order against organisations for credit reporting breaches. Penalties for an individual range $2,200 to $220,000 and for a company they range from $110,000 to $1.1 million.

 The reforms will now be introduced in the Senate where it is currently being considered by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. 

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is also currently considering ways to further enhance privacy protections as part of its Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation.   

The reforms will now be introduced in the Senate where it is currently being considered by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. The Government may make further amendments in the Senate in response to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee’s report, which is due to report shortly.

The Attorney General’s Second Reading speech provides:

The Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 is one of the most significant developments in privacy reform since Labor introduced the act in 1988.

With this bill, the Gillard Labor government has implemented more than half of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendations in the 2008 For your information report.

This bill will bring Australia’s privacy protection framework into the modern era. Labor is protecting the privacy of working families.

In an online world, we are increasingly sharing our personal information on social networking sites and paying our bills and buying footy tickets over the internet.

While these technological changes bring immense benefits to working families, there are risks. That’s why Labor is tightening up the rules around how companies and organisations can collect, use and disclose personal information.

For the first time, new Australian Privacy Principles will apply to both the private and public sectors. The principles will continue to deal with the collection, storage, security, use, disclosure, access and correction of personal information.

But we are introducing a new privacy principle for direct marketing and stronger protections for consumers when companies disclose personal information overseas. The new direct marketing privacy principle will more tightly regulate the use of personal information for direct marketing.

Put simply, it will give working families more power to opt out of receiving direct marketing materials. The onus will be on companies to provide a clear and simple way of opting out of receiving direct marketing materials.

Labor is also extending privacy protections to unsolicited information and introducing stronger and clearer rules around data quality and data protection.

There will be a new requirement in the Privacy Principles for organisations and companies to develop detailed privacy policies—and make them clear and easily accessible to consumers. Labor is shifting power away from big companies—back to individuals and working families.

There will be stricter rules about sending a family’s personal information outside of Australia. Specifically, privacy policies will need to include whether a company or agency is likely to disclose information to overseas recipients and, if so, which countries the information is likely to go to.

In addition, before a company or government agency discloses personal information to an overseas recipient, the company must take reasonable steps to make sure the overseas recipient does not breach the Australian Privacy Principles. Privacy entities will continue to be accountable for information that is sent overseas.

The Australian Privacy Principles will also require a higher standard of protection to be afforded to ‘sensitive information’—which includes health related information, DNA and biometric data.

The government is aware that senators and members receive numerous letters and emails about credit reports. Australia’s complex and often confusing credit reporting system is being reformed.

In addition to the Gillard government’s responsible lending reforms in the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009, we are making it easier for consumers to access and correct their personal credit information.

It is the first major reform since Labor introduced credit reporting in 1990. This bill modernises credit reporting provisions and will make the credit reporting regime more flexible and less prescriptive by emphasising industry-led complaint resolution.

Banks and financial institutions will be able to see more accurate and positive information about:

(1) the types of accounts that families have and when they were opened and closed;

(2) the current credit limits of each account (but obviously not the day-to-day balance, to protect privacy); and

(3) positive information about repayment history—for example, when a credit card was paid off on time, not just information about overdue payments.

These reforms will mean more families can access credit. And it will mean the banks can assess credit risks more accurately.

These reforms will be good for business. The finance and credit industry have been heavily involved in developing these reforms. They know—as does this Labor government—that these reforms will enhance responsible lending in Australia.

It was Labor who supported Australia’s economy through the global financial crisis. We supported small business and created three-quarters of a million jobs.

These reforms will give the Australian finance and credit industry more information—with the appropriate privacy protections—so that they can make more accurate risk assessments. More information—which will need to be more up to date and accurate under this bill—will assist both consumers and the credit reporting industry.

It is expected that these reforms will lead to decreased levels of over-indebtedness and then lower credit default rates.

For Australian businesses and the credit industry more comprehensive credit reporting will enable better management of capital and growth targets, improve credit decisions and enhance the effectiveness of how credit reporting agencies collect data.

It is also expected to lead to more competition and efficiency in the credit market, which may in turn lead to more affordable credit and mortgage insurance for families and first home buyers.

Credit providers will now have positive obligations to help consumers correct their credit information. It will be easier to make complaints about incorrect credit reporting information. The bill will also prohibit the collection of credit reporting information about individuals reasonably known to be under the age of 18.

Businesses will get more information, particularly in relation to repayment history—but Labor will protect the privacy of this information. For example, given the sensitive nature of repayment history information, this information will only be available to credit providers who are subject to responsible lending obligations under the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009.

In addition, repayment history information can only be retained for a rolling two-year period, rather than five years like most of the other information in the credit reporting system.

For families to fully utilise these new powers, they need to be able to get an enforceable remedy. That’s why the Gillard Labor government is enhancing the powers of the Australian Privacy Commissioner to improve the commissioner’s ability to resolve complaints, conduct investigations and promote privacy compliance.

Under this bill, the Privacy Commissioner will be able to make a determination to direct an organisation to take specific steps to stop certain conduct, or take reasonable action to redress any loss or damage suffered.

The commissioner will also be able to obtain enforceable undertakings from an organisation. A court can then make appropriate orders, including orders for compensation.

The commissioner will also be able to apply to the court for a civil penalty order against organisations. Penalties range from 200 penalty units—$22,000 for an individual and $110,000 for a company—to 2,000 penalty units, which is $220,000 for an individual and $1.1 million for a company. For serious and repeated breaches of privacy, the penalty will be 2,000 penalty units. This is another remedy for consumers and will encourage compliance with the Privacy Act.

The Privacy Commissioner will also be able to direct agencies to perform a privacy impact assessment, and will be able to conduct privacy performance assessments to check that agencies and organisations are complying with the Australian Privacy Principles.

This bill will make dispute resolution simpler, quicker and cheaper. The commissioner will have a new power to recognise and approve an external dispute resolution scheme for credit reporting disputes. There are new conciliation provisions, so that conciliation can be a dispute resolution option.

In essence, the Australian Privacy Commissioner will have new powers, including the power to seek enforceable remedies for consumers who have had their privacy breached. These are major reforms.

They are major reforms which will help working Australians in practical ways—from correcting their credit information when they apply for a loan, to making a complaint against a bank or telecommunications company. Labor is giving more power to individuals and to working families.

The government is allowing industry and government agencies nine months to review and update their privacy policies and practices. That’s why the bill will commence nine months after royal assent.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the stakeholders who have worked so hard on these reforms since 2008. The government is looking forward to continuing to work with them on the regulations and the credit reporting code. I commend the bill to the House.

The question will be how effective the privacy changes are.  The feedback from the industry has ranged from mildly supportive to signfiicant disappointment.  The Australian has been quite suspicious of statutory privacy protections (rising to outright hostility regarding a statutory right to privacy).  Its coverage in Privacy changes ‘too confusing’ is fairly typical.  Itnews has a fascinating detailed analysis in Parliamentary Committee urges privacy bill review.  It provides:

A parliamentary committee inquiring into proposed amendments to privacy legislation has left the door open on companies hoping to defend against improper use of personal information sent overseas.

The committee rubber-stamped the Government’s proposed legislative amendments this week but urged it to review the new regime a year after passing the bill to determine the success or progress of some of its elements.

Importantly, the committee suggested the Government reconsider whether to include an explicit defence against failure to abide by Australian Privacy Principle 8, concerning cross-border information disclosure.

The principle requires companies disclosing personal information to a foreign company or entity to take “reasonable steps” to ensure the receiving company does not breach those principles.

The proposed legislation includes exceptions to those steps, including in the instance of an international agreement, but the Attorney-General’s Department had pushed back on the proposal from some companies to include an explicit defence to contravening the law in specific cases.

The committee said the proposed legislation had achieved the correct balance between protection of information and encouraging cross-border data flow.

However, it argued that the actual process and success of the exceptions, without an explicit defence to contravention, will “perhaps only be wholly understood once the regime is in operation”.

“To safeguard the desired operation of the provisions, the Committee recommends that the prospect of introducing such a defence or exemption be re-evaluated in a review of the operation of the new privacy laws,” the committee said in its final report (pdf).

Some companies had suggested during the inquiry that a defence would be required in situations where reasonable steps had been taken, but personal information had been disclosed anyway.

Foxtel specifically suggested that, under the reforms, it could be held accountable for data leaks in “unauthorised” cases “such as by hacking”.

The principle was also seen by some as too difficult to enforce, particularly in light of increasing demand for foreign-hosted cloud services.

The Australian Privacy Foundation slammed the principle as an “empty imposition of liability” on companies that exported sensitive data overseas.

The Australian Privacy Foundation has been quite critical, but for very good reasons, which are found here.

1 Introduction – A Bill that should be rejected
The Australian Privacy Foundation (APF)
The Australian Privacy Foundation is the main non-governmental organisation dedicated to protecting the privacy rights of Australians. The Foundation aims to focus public attention on emerging issues which pose a threat to the freedom and privacy of Australians. Since 1987, the Foundation has led the defence of the right of individuals to control their personal information and to be free of excessive intrusions. For information about the Foundation see
About this submission
This Bill has a complex structure and effect, with Schedules amending substantial parts of the existing Privacy Act 1988, and other legislation. While two Schedules deal with separate ‘jurisdictions’ within the Privacy Act – Information Privacy generally (inSchedule 1) and Credit Reporting (in Schedule 2) – some of the associated changes in relevant processes and definitions are contained in other Schedules, (primarily Schedule 4); Schedule 3 creates a new Part dealing with Codes, moving and revising provisions previously in two separate Parts, while Schedule 4 deals also with investigations, enforcement, powers and functions of the Commissioner Dealing with the Schedules and clauses sequentially would obscure the significance of the important changes. We have therefore structured this submission around what we consider to be the main areas of change, bringing together comments on relevant clauses from the different Schedules. At the end of most explanation, we conclude with a specific submission about the relevant clause(s).
This submission refers to previous submissions from the Australian Privacy Foundation1 and from researchers at the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre, UNSW Faculty of Law2, and is the most recent in a series of detailed submissions both bodies have made to the ALRC in 2006-08, and to the government and Parliament since then,concerning proposed changes to the Privacy Act. We draw the Committee’s attention in particular to an Improved Exposure Draft of the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) which was attached to Submission 25 to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee.

Rejection or major overhaul of this Bill is needed
The government has ‘cherry picked’ the ALRC’s recommendations and brought forward too many that are unfriendly to privacy, and ignored many of the ALRC’s better recommendations. Ideally, this incomplete and consumer-hostile Bill should be defeated or withdrawn, and the government should bring back to the Parliament a Bill that comprehensively improves the Privacy Act. Failing that, and perhaps more realistically, this Bill should be given a thorough overhaul, adding those valuable ALRC recommendations now omitted, restoring those that have been weakened, and adding other vital improvements (such as the Commissioner’s obligation to make decisions where complainants are dissatisfied) that the ALRC unfortunately missed. One way or another, this Bill needs to be salvaged from its present unsatisfactory state.
The government claims there is another privacy reform Bill, the one containing all the hard bits, just over the horizon, but within the lifespan of the current government. After a four year wait for the first Bill, it is hard to take that claim seriously. This is the Parliament’s ‘once in lifetime’ chance to adopt meaningful and overdue privacy reforms, and it should make sure all necessary reforms are included in this Bill.
Submission: The Parliament should ensure that all necessary and desirable privacy reforms are included in this Bill, as the opportunity is unlikely to come again.
Little help to Australia’s international position Australia has still not received an ‘adequacy’ finding for its privacy law from the European Union, whereas in 2011 the key EU ‘Article 29’ committee gave the green light to an adequacy finding for New Zealand. Accession to Council of Europe data protection Convention 108 by non-European countries is also now being actively promoted, and it may evolve to become a global convention which guarantees free flow of personal information between its members. This Bill does little overall to advance Australia’s case for adequacy or accession, because of its data export changes, its incomplete appeals provisions, and its continuance of exceptions which have received international criticism. Whether the stronger enforcement powers can compensate is questionable.
Internationally, this seems like a missed opportunity for Australia.
Submission: The Parliament should consider the benefits that can be obtained for Australia’s international trading position, and international reputation, by stronger reforms than are found in this Bill.

2 Stronger Commissioner’s powers: No use if not used
While we support the Commissioner having stronger powers, we consider that successive Commissioners have had a history of inaction in the use of the enforcement powers that they do have, which has seriously undermined the effectiveness of the Privacy Act. It has made complainants feel that they are powerless, and has sent a signal to businesses and agencies that compliance with the Privacy Act is in reality ‘optional’ for many purposes, and that breaches of the Act do not pose a significant business risk.
This regrettable situation cannot be reversed solely by more powers or more resources being given to the Commissioner. More powers must also be given to complainants so that they can ensure for themselves that the Commissioner does his or her job. There also needs to be a change of approach by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in relation to its Privacy Act functions, to emphasise pro-active enforcement and public demonstration of this, rather than the historical focus on behind the scenes settlement of non-compliance cases.

Appeals are useless if no decisions are made
There is a hidden reform in this Bill: for the first time, there is a right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (s96(1)(c)) against decisions by the Commissioner to make a ‘determination’ of a complaint under s52(1) or (1A) (the only type of enforceable decisions about complaints under the Act). This long-overdue reform is one that privacy advocates and others have been demanding for over a decade. But it is not mentioned in the Second Reading Speech, nor in the Explanatory Memorandum.
Perhaps it is too embarrassing to mention it, because for the right of appeal to have any meaning, the Commissioner would first have to made decisions against which appeals can be lodged. The current Commissioner has made one s52 determination during his time in office, and the previous Commissioner did not make one single determination in her whole five years in office. In the 23 year history of the Privacy Act, successive Commissioners have made a mere nine determinations4. It is a very poor record of
Therefore, this new right of appeal is of little use unless complainants can require the Commissioner to make formal decisions under s52 of the Act. Successive Commissioners, including the current one, have adopted a policy that complainants have no right to a formal decision even though they disagree with the Commissioner’s view that a complaint has been successfully resolved. As a result, many dissatisfied complainants are denied even a formal determination dismissing their complaint under s52(1)(a) – and without such a formal decision, they will have no right of appeal. The Commissioner has confirmed that he is sticking to this ‘you have no right to a decision’ policy in Fact Sheets 10-12, issued in June 2012. The only way to make the new s96 right of appeal meaningful is therefore for the Commissioner to be required to make a
formal decision dismissing a complaint, whenever a complainant so requests, so as to activate a complainant’s right of appeal. Unless this is done, the new right of appeal will be useless, a theoretical right negated by the Commissioner’s inactivity in this important function. It is a ridiculous situation, but it is how the Act currently works.

Previous government proposals to allow such dissatisfied complainants to go direct to the Federal Court have been dropped, but were not good enough in any event: the Commissioner should be required to make a decision where the complainant reasonably requests one, so that normal appeal rights are available to them. Furthermore, the cost of proceedings in the Federal Court usually exceeds $100,000, so this is not a remedy which is of any use to most complainants. Complainants are most likely to want a formal resolution of their complaint when they are dissatisfied with the Commissioner’s proposed settlement in mediation of a complaint, or where the Commissioner considers (but the complainant disagrees) that the respondent has taken reasonable steps to resolve the complaint. However, the right to a formal decision should be available wherever the Commissioner proposes to refuse or cease investigation of a complaint, on whatever ground.
Submission: The Privacy Commissioner should be required to make a determination under s52 wherever a complainant so requests, and for complainants to be informed that they are entitled to such a formal resolution of their complaint. If this is not provided, the new s96 right of appeal against determinations will be meaningless, because (on 23 years past experience) the Commissioner will not make determinations to appeal against.
Other aspects of the Commissioner’s discretion to arbitrarily dispose of complaints also need to be reigned in: he/she can refuse to investigate complaints wherever he/she thinks investigation ‘is not warranted’, an unwarranted and un-appealable discretion;
and he/she can recognise another dispute resolution scheme to substitute for the Privacy Act, even if it provides lesser remedies than the Act, depriving complainants oftheir rights. The powers of the Privacy Commissioner can, paradoxically, sometimes be a hazard to privacy protection.
Submission: The proposed power of the Commissioner to refuse to investigate a complaint wherever he/she thinks investigation ‘is not warranted’ (new s41(1)(da)) is an unwarranted
and un-appealable discretion, and should be deleted.
Submission: The Commissioner’s powers to recognise another dispute resolution scheme (s35A), and to refuse to investigate a complaint on the grounds that it is being or could be dealt with under such a scheme (new s41(1)(dc) and (dd)), should be limited to apply only
to such schemes as provide at least the same remedies as are available under s52 of the Privacy Act.
Enforcement strengthened, but still major gaps
This Bill makes other improvements to the Commissioner’s powers that are significant, but they are incomplete (compared with the ALRC’s recommendations), and in some cases defective. Their effectiveness also presupposes a more active Commissioner than has been the case.
Submission: The Privacy Foundation supports the other largely positive reforms to the Commissioner’s powers (including the proposed changes to s52(1)(ia)), s52(1A)), s13G, s33D, s33E and s35A), subject to suggesting the following improvements. Broadening of the complaint determination power, to allow the Commissioner to direct respondents to take specific actions to remedy a complaint (s52(1)(ia)), is very desirable.

New civil penalty provisions in s13G for ‘serious’ or ‘repeated’ breaches, for which the Commissioner will have to apply to a Court, are desirable. However, the criteria for these breaches to occur are not clearly defined.
The new power to make determinations following ‘own motion’ investigations (s52(1A)), is highly desirable. In the hands of a sufficiently motivated Commissioner, it could be the strongest and most effective enforcement mechanism in the Act. Allowing for the Commissioner to accept enforceable undertakings (s33E) is highly desirable, particularly as this does not require a prior finding of an ‘interference with privacy’. Similar procedures have worked well in the South Korean data protection legislation for over a decade. It is particularly desirable that ‘the Commissioner may publish the undertaking on the Commissioner’s website’ (s33E(5)), but we consider that this should be strengthened to require the Commissioner to make such undertakings public, but with an option for an undertaking to be anonymised where the privacy interests of an individual make this necessary.
Submission: The Commissioner should be required to make enforceable undertakings obtained under s33E public, but with an option for an undertaking to be anonymised where the privacy interests of an individual make this necessary.
New powers to require Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) from agencies (s33D)) are desirable. However, they are defective in not requiring PIAs to be either independent or public. Many PIAs have apparently been conducted in Australia, but few have been made public to assist in public debate on important initiatives. Most importantly, there is no provision to ensure that requested PIAs are completed before decisions are made to proceed with the activity in question.
Submission: The Commissioner should make public a direction to an agency under s33D(1) to conduct Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). The Commissioner, upon receiving a PIA, should be required to make it public.
Submission: An agency should be prohibited from carrying out, or making a final decision to carry out, the proposed activity or function which are the subject of a PIA, until the Commissioner has made the PIA public.

Assessments function
A new function to conduct ‘assessments’ of the compliance of any public or private sector organisation in relation to its compliance with the APPs or other forms of enforceable privacy principles (s33C) replaces the audit function of the Commissioner – currently applying only to Commonwealth agencies and to tax file number and credit information – with a new ‘assessment’ function applicable to all APP entities – but this is curiously located outside the ‘monitoring’ functions, and without the benefit of the important ‘powers’ clauses that currently apply. TFN and credit information remains subject to the separate ‘monitor’ and ‘examine records’ functions, which do have those associated powers. It is not clear if the overall effect is to effectively extend full audit
powers to all private sector organisations with obligations under the Act, as recommended by the ALRC (Rec 47-6).
Submission: The Commissioner’s new ‘assessment’ function should be clarified to ensure that it does effectively extend full audit powers to all APP entities. APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.7 July 2012 Mandatory data breach notification should be included in this Bill
The ALRC’s proposed requirement on businesses to notify consumers and the Commissioner of any major breaches of data security is not included. Mandatory data breach notification provisions are already part of the privacy laws of South Korea and Taiwan, and are either already in place or being enacted in many other jurisdictions around the world (particularly in many jurisdictions in the USA), so why not here after six years of law reform? This is the one likely opportunity for such reform. Such a scheme needs careful design, with appropriate thresholds and perhaps a two stage process, but there are many precedents, and operational experience available.
Submission: A mandatory requirement to notify significant data breaches both to the data subjects affected, and to the Commissioner, should be included in this Bill.

Comprehensively weaker
Overview of the APPs
The proposed Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) are weaker than the ALRC’s proposed UPPs and the current IPPs and NPPs, and unless significantly improved during the Parliamentary process will lead to an overall reduction in privacy protection. Regrettably, the government has gone backwards instead of forwards in terms of modernising the principles, and seems to have been unduly influenced by both business and agency interests, to the detriment of the interests of the citizens and consumers that the Privacy Act is intended to protect. In the case of government agencies, a raft of changes have been ‘slipped in’ at the last minute to avoid some agencies having to rigorously apply well-designed existing exceptions. Such lazy drafting and special pleading should be rejected. There are a few improvements to the ALRC proposals in the government’s Bill, but in many cases proposed changes to the language of the principles which appear minor and superficially innocuous in fact have very significant adverse effects. In particular, the cross-border disclosure principle, which has an everincreasing importance in the context of borderless networks and ‘cloud’ computing, is seriously inadequate.

Relationship of the APPs to other Privacy Act provisions
It is unfortunate that the government released an Exposure draft of the APPs (in mid 2010) without drafts of other provisions relating to compliance and enforcement, and some coverage, exemption and definition matters not yet addressed. We understand the rationale for a staged release, and this was acceptable in relation to the specific credit reporting rules (released as an Exposure draft in early 2011), and might also have been appropriate in relation to health privacy rules, promised as part of the first stage reforms but which have not now been delivered. But a complete judgement as to the effect of changes to the main principles could only be made in the context of the Information and Privacy Commissioners’ functions and powers, and other parts of the Act. These had been expected to be the subject of another Exposure draft Bill but have only recently been made public in the final amendment Bill now before the Parliament, with wholly inadequate time for full consideration and debate.

Definitions – Inadequate
The definition of ‘enforcement body’ has been extended to include some additional agencies. Most of these additions are clearly of a similar nature to the existing ones, and are justified. But the addition of CrimTrac agency (Schedule 1, Item 16) is of concern. Our understanding is that CrimTrac provides a range of common services, databases etc to operational law enforcement agencies – it has never in the past been considered an ‘executive’ agency with an independent law enforcement role. As such it is an inappropriate inclusion in this definition.
Submission: CrimTrac should be deleted from the list of enforcement bodies.
A new definition – ‘enforcement related activity’ – designed to capture the matters currently set out in NPP 2.1(h) has had a new element added to cover the conduct of surveillance, intelligence gathering and other monitoring activities (Schedule Item 20 – definition – (b)). It is not clear why this is considered necessary, and has the potential to be very widely interpreted, and potentially misused to extend the effect of the APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.9 July 2012 exceptions which rely on the definition. The government needs to justify why any such activity necessary for law enforcement purposes is not already covered by the other parts of the definition. The same definition also now includes ‘other conduct prescribed by the regulations’ ((f)). This would not need to be misconduct ‘of a serious nature’ which is the primary
criterion in (f). When combined with the proposed new definition of ‘misconduct’ to include ‘any other misconduct in the course of duty’ the net effect is to leave it open tofuture governments to significantly undermine the effect of some principles by Regulation. We submit that the parameters of the exceptions should remain specified in the Act. The addition of ‘any other conduct’ would also weaken the effect of those principles to which the ‘enforcement related activity’ definition applies, even if no ‘other conduct’ was prescribed.
Submission: The phrase ‘other conduct prescribed by the regulations’ should be deleted from the definition of ‘enforcement related activity’.
The definition of ‘personal information’ is re-worded from the ALRC recommendation but is not substantially different. We repeat our criticism of the definition from our response to the ALRC report:
“This recommendation fails to ensure that the Act covers an increasingly important category of information which, while not in itself identifying an individual, allows interaction with persons on an individualised basis, or the imparting of consequences on an individualised basis. A broader definition is necessary partly to respond to technological change … Replacing ”reasonably identifiable” with “potentially identifiable” would go some way towards remedying this deficiency, but is not in itself adequate.”
We consider this requires comprehensive reconsideration in future.
The definition of ‘solicits’ is essentially unchanged. We submit that it would be helpful to make it clear that it includes ‘making a facility available for receipt of information’ even if there is no express invitation or request. The meaning of ‘consent’ is critical, but the government shows no signs of addressing one of the most significant weaknesses in the current regime, which was also avoided by the ALRC. We repeat our criticism from our response to the ALRC report:
“The ALRC does not adequately address what is one of the most significant weaknesses in the current Act – the ability to interpret ‘consent’ in ways which completely undermine the effect of many of the principles. The definition of ‘consent’ should be amended to deal with a number of key issues concerning consent, specified in the following submission, rather than leaving them to [Privacy Commissioner] guidance. Other aspects of consent should be dealt with where possible in the Explanatory Memorandum, and only otherwise by … guidance. Either the definition of ‘consent’ or the explanatory memorandum should state that consent, whether express orimplied, must be clear and unambiguous, and should expressly state that a failure to opt out is not by itself to constitute unambiguous consent.
The government should give further consideration to the implications of the confusion caused by the lack of any distinction in the Privacy Act between uses or disclosures justified by consent and those justified by acknowledgment of notification. At the least, the Act or the Explanatory Memorandum should state that where a person has no choice but to provide personal information in order to obtain a benefit, no consent to any uses of the information beyond the express purpose of collection may be implied. In such circumstances of ‘involuntary consent’, only express consent should apply.
The definition of ‘consent’ needs to be amended in order to prevent abuse of the practice of ‘bundled consent’. In particular, wherever consent is applicable to the operation of a privacy principle, separate consent should be required for each proposed purpose of use.” South Korea’s amended data protection legislation of 2011 is a model for the types of amendments that are required.
Submission: The definition of ‘consent’ in s6(1) needs to be amended in order to prevent abuse of the practice of ‘bundled consent’; to state that consent, whether express or implied, must be clear and unambiguous; and to expressly state that a failure to opt out is not by itself to constitute unambiguous consent.
Unjustified exemptions need to be removed by this Bill
While general exemptions from the Act are not addressed in the Bill, and are relevant to more than just the APPs, we address the issue in this part of our submission as their main effect would continue to be to deny individuals the privacy protection of the principles (the APPs in the future) in some major areas of Australian life. The government has previously indicated that it would not address the ALRC’s recommendations concerning exemptions in the first tranche of amendments – putting them off until a second tranche of amendments at some unspecified future date. It is therefore no surprise that removal of unjustifiable exemptions from the Act (‘small’ business; employee records; and political matters), as proposed by the ALRC, is omitted from this Bill. Australians deserve better than to wait forever for a second reform Bill –there should be one comprehensive Bill including all reforms.
Submission: The Bill should be amended to include removal of the exemptions for ‘small’ business operators (s6C(1)); employee records (s7B(3)); and political acts and practices
(s7C). The Bill includes no changes to the exemptions for agencies (s7), which the ALRC correctly criticised as being arbitrary. Where agencies can make a case for exemption from specific principles or other obligations, this needs to be argued on a case by case basis.
Submission: The ALRC’s recommendations on removing exemptions for agencies should be included in this Bill. Some powerful government agencies, such as Defence and Foreign Affairs, have even negotiated arbitrary and unjustified exceptions from some Principles. Under proposed s16A (s16A(1) Table Item 3 and s16A(2)), further exemptions from some of the APPs can also be created by the Privacy Commissioner, but unlike the existing Public Interest Determination procedures, without any public hearings, notice or opportunity for public scrutiny. No such exemptions should be created by the Commissioner unless there are previous public hearings equivalent to the Public Interest Determination procedures, followed by the usual disallowance procedure for a legislative instrument.
Submission: The Commissioner’s powers to make exemptions from the APPs under new s16A without any public hearings should be amended to require that there be public hearings equivalent to the current Public Interest Determination procedures. APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.11 July 2012 We support the restatement of the policy in s16E and s7B(1) of the existing Act, exempting acts or practices by individuals acting in a personal capacity.
Submission: While privacy intrusive behaviour by individuals is a matter of concern, it is best addressed through a private right of action and other laws such as those dealing with surveillance.
We support the stated intention to continue the policy in s7A of the existing Act which provides for certain acts and practices of ‘agencies’ to be treated as though they were ‘organisations’, although we submit that the current provision is too narrow, in that itapplies only to agencies listed (arbitrarily) in a particular schedule in the FOI Act, and to prescribed agencies. We submit that to ensure that those APPs which apply only to organisations do apply also to commercial activities of government agencies, a broader ‘deeming’ provision is required. (See also our comments below on those APPs which do distinguish between agencies and organisations).
Submission: To ensure that those APPs which apply only to organisations do apply also to commercial activities of government agencies, a broader ‘deeming’ provision is required in s7A.
Emergencies and Disasters
We submit that the then government never provided a convincing justification for the insertion of Part VIA in 2006. We urge the committee to seek an explanation from the government as to why this Part is needed, with evidence of how (if) it has been used since 2006.
Submission: Part VIA of the Act should be deleted unless the government can provide a convincing explanation for its retention.
The Bill has taken a new approach to provision of exceptions to some of the Principles.
Instead of listing all of the applicable exceptions within each Principle, some of the common exceptions (applicable variously to the collection, use and disclosure principles) have been taken into a separate new section outside the APPs – s16A – Permitted general situations. While this may save a few words in some Principles, it is extremely unhelpful to the clarity of the law – it will be much less obvious, from a simple reading of an APP, what its scope and effect will be. If one set out to design the law so as to deliberately obscure a layperson from understanding its effect, the introduction of s16A would be an ideal tool.
Submission: Section 16A should be deleted and the relevant exceptions spelt out in each APP to which they apply.
APP 1: Openness – No disclosure of overseas recipients and their laws
APP 1.4 requires the entity to include in its privacy policy information as to whether it ‘is likely to disclose personal information to overseas recipients’ (f) and if so, the countries in which such recipients are likely to be located’ – but only ‘if it is practicable to specify those countries’ (g). (APP 5.2(i) & (j) specify the same information in relation to collection). Leaving aside the question of whether ‘overseas’ has the same meaning as ‘outside Australia’ in other provisions, the ‘only if practicable’ qualification is far too subjective, and is likely to lead to many entities not including this important information.

The list of matters requiring disclosure in an organisation’s privacy policy needs to be made more consistent with the list of matters to be notified when collecting personal information, under APP 5 (and both lists need to be expanded). The privacy policy would have to specify ‘purposes’ (APP 1.4(c) – as in APP 5.2(d)) but not usual recipients (APP 5.2(f) paraphrased).
Submission: In the context of APP 8, disclosure of the countries in which recipients will be (or might be) located should always be required. If an organisation does not know (or is not willing to say) where personal information is going, it should not send it there.
Submission: In the context of APP 8, both APP 1 and APP 5 are also deficient in not requiring any explanation of the level of privacy protection in the destination jurisdiction.
Submission: The privacy policy should also always disclose the usual recipients of personal information, whether located in Australia or located overseas.
APP 2: Anonymity and pseudonymity
The expansion of the anonymity principle in the NPPs (NPP 8) to include pseudonymity is desirable in theory. However, APP 2 as drafted (either inadvertently or intentionally) undermines the policy objective of encouraging anonymity as a preferred option, with pseudonymity as a ‘next best’ option. APP 2 reads ‘Individuals must have the option of not identifying themselves, or of using a pseudonym, when dealing with an APP entity.’
Why would an entity offer the option of anonymity, if it can get away with offering pseudonymity (e.g. by provision of a non-identifying email address traceable via an ISP)? The current version of APP 2 effectively destroys the anonymity principle in NPP 8.
Submission: APP 2 must be clarified to state that anonymity must be offered where lawful and practicable (as NPP 8 now provides), and that otherwise pseudonymity must be offered unless it is also unlawful or impracticable.
The application of the principle to government agencies is also desirable, but APP 2 has also been weakened, perhaps largely destroyed, by the re-wording of the exception.
Instead of NPP 8’s positive formulation: ‘wherever … lawful and practicable’, APP 2 provides an exception, where an entity is ‘required or authorised by or under law … to deal with individuals who have identified themselves’ (2.2(a)), or where it is impracticable (2.2(b)). Every government department must surely be so authorised by implication of one law or another? We submit that the policy objective is, or should be, to provide an exception only where the identification is expressly required by law etc (or impracticable).
Submission: The previous positive formula should be reinstated, so that APP 2 applies ‘wherever lawful and practicable’.
APP 3: Collecting solicited information – Existing limitations abandoned
This principle is also significantly weaker than the equivalent NPP 1. The existing limitation of collection to information ‘necessary’ for an entity’s functions has been weakened to ‘reasonably necessary’ and the weaker formulation of IPP 1 ‘or directly related to’ has been retained for the benefit of agencies, but not private sector organisations (APP 3.1).
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.13 July 2012
Submission: APP 3 should provide collection of information should be limited to either where ‘necessary for’ (alone) or, preferably both ‘necessary for and directly related to’ the
primary purpose.
For ‘sensitive information’, the exceptions to ‘consent’ in NPP 10.1 have been dramatically expanded in APP 3.3 and 3.4. NPP 10.1(b)’s ‘required by law’ has become ‘required or authorised by or under … in APP 3.4(a), without any justification for why the deliberately more protective wording has been abandoned in this specific context.
We reject the wholesale invocation of the very vague and subjective ‘authorised’. The ‘emergencies’ exception (NPP 10.1(c)) has been broadened in s16A (‘permitted general situations’) firstly by the removal of the ‘imminent’ threat criterion, secondly by
the addition of threats to an individual’s ‘safety’ and to ‘public health or safety’ (all in
Item 1(b) of the Table in s16A(1)) and thirdly by the replacement of the condition that
consent be physically or legally impracticable with a much weaker ‘unreasonable or
impracticable to obtain consent’ in Item 1(a) of the Table.
The first change is generic and applies equally to the same exceptions to other
principles (not just to ‘sensitive information’. We repeat our response to the ALRC
“There is currently no constraint on the ability of an agency or organisation to claim this exception for bulk or routinised
uses or disclosures [and in this context, collections], as opposed to ad hoc, specific individual circumstances. The first
part of the exception is by definition so limited – it will be necessary to identify specific individuals or small groups to
satisfy this test. But if the exception was available for public health and public safety without the ‘imminent’ test, it is
difficult to see how claims could not be made under it for a wide range of law enforcement and welfare programmes,
including high volume data-matching and data linkage projects.
We oppose the deletion of the qualifying word ‘imminent’ … It is essential to retain a test of ‘urgency’; to justify why
another basis for [collection] cannot be established (e.g. obtaining lawful authority, or by applying for a Public Interest
Submission: The qualifying word ‘imminent’ should be reinstated in all ‘emergencies’
exceptions (wherever they are located). It is essential to retain a test of ‘urgency’; to justify
why another basis for collection cannot be established.
The second and third changes in APP 3 in relation to ‘sensitive information’ are major
weakening of the principle, and will be interpreted by entities to routinely justify
collection of sensitive information without consent.
Submission: The current wording of the condition in the NPP exception (NPP 10.1(c))
(paraphrased as where there is a … threat to life or health of any individual) should be
retained in relation to sensitive information.
Submission: The current wording of the condition in the NPP exception (NPP
10.1(c)(i)&(ii)) (paraphrased as where consent is physically or legally impracticable)
should be retained in relation to sensitive information.
The ‘investigation of unlawful activity’ exception (Item 2 in the Table in s16A(1) and
invoked by APP 3.4(b)) was not included in the ALRC recommendation (UPP 2.5). No
explanation is offered as to why it is needed in the context of collection of sensitive
information – while it may be, the government must justify it. If it remains, we submit
that it should be conditional on the entity taking some ‘appropriate action’ within a
reasonable period of time. Without such a condition, the exception invites the
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.14 July 2012
compilation and indefinite maintenance of ‘blacklists’ based on suspicion of
wrongdoing, but without any requirement for individuals on such lists to be afforded
natural justice.
Submission: The exception in APP 3(4)(c) should be deleted or coupled with a requirement
of enforcement action being taken within a specified and reasonable time.
Completely new ‘special pleading’ exceptions have appeared in APP 3 for the specific
benefit of the diplomatic service (Item 6 in the Table in s16A(1)), the Defence Forces
(Item 7 in the Table) – both invoked by 3.4(c) , allowing them to avoid the principle the
basis of their own ‘reasonable belief’, and for the Immigration Department (by the
addition of APP 3.4(d)(i) for the benefit of this Department alone). We submit that this
reflects a lazy approach to compliance – there is no reason why these agencies should
not have to comply with APP3, taking advantage where appropriate of the other generic
exceptions. Any case for additional exceptions should be argued rather than simply
Submission: The special exemptions for the diplomatic service, Defence Forces and
Immigration Department should be deleted, as they have not been justified.
A further new exception aimed at assisting in locating people reported missing (Item 3
in the Table in s16A(1) and invoked by APP 3.4(c)) relies on an as-yet-unknown
Commissioner’s legislative instrument. We submit that if a case can be made for an
additional exception it should be specified in the Principle itself. As the previous
Companion Guide to the Exposure Draft acknowledged, this issue is difficult from a
privacy perspective as some missing persons choose not to be ‘found’, but this is all the
more reason for the balance to be set out in the principle and not left to Regulations.
Submission: The exception aimed at assisting in locating people reported missing should
be stated in the Act, not in an as-yet-unknown Commissioner’s legislative instrument.
Submission: The proposed exception for non-profit organisations (APP 3.4(e)) should refer
directly to the definition of sensitive information in the Act, and add the caveat that the
activities must be lawful, to avoid the exception covering organisations [involved in]
unlawful discrimination, race hate etc.
APP 4: Receiving unsolicited information
This requirement, suggested by the ALRC as UPP 2.4, has been elevated into a separate
principle, and APPs 5-13 specified as principles which are applicable to retained
Submission: We support the substance of APP 4.
APP 5: Notification of collection – remaining deficiencies
We repeat the submission in our response to the ALRC Report that either the principle,
or the definition of ‘collects’, should expressly include collection by observation,
surveillance or internal generation in the course of transactions, to ensure that the
notification principle is not read as applying only to collection resulting from ‘requests’.
This is particularly significant in relation to APP 5(2)(b), which applies where an entity
collections personal information from someone other than the individual. This could be
read as excluding the collection methods that do not involve a third party. The required
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.15 July 2012
content of notification when information is collected is similar to that in NPP 1.3 and the
ALRC’s proposed UPP 3, but there are some significant differences.
Submission: APP 5.2(a) should specify ‘functional contact details’ to prevent entities from
allowing contact details to lapse or become ineffective – a depressingly common experience
with ‘customer complaints’ addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses. A
precedent exists in the Spam Act 2003, which requires a ‘functional unsubscribe facility’.
The addition of a specific requirement to include information about transfer to overseas
recipients (APP 5.2(i) & (j)) is welcome, but suffers from the same weakness – the
‘excuse’ of impracticability) as does the equivalent provision in the requirement for a
privacy policy in APP 1. In the context of APP 8 (see below) both APP5 and APP 1 are
also deficient in not requiring any explanation of the level of privacy protection in the
destination jurisdiction. We also again draw attention to the inconsistency in use of
‘overseas’ in APPs 1, 5 & 8, but ‘outside Australia’ in other provisions.
Submission: APP 5.2(j) is deficient in that the ‘only if practicable’ qualification is far too
subjective, and is likely to lead to many entities not including this important information,
and in not requiring any explanation of the level of privacy protection in the destination
APP 6: Use and disclosure – The principle is misleading
The wording of APP 7.1 should use (a primary purpose) and (a secondary purpose)
rather than (the …) to reflect the reality that an entity may have more than one primary
or secondary purpose (this is already acknowledged by the use of the plural ‘purposes’
in other principles.
We note that this principle splits the single list of ‘conditions’ in the previous UPP 5
(and currently in NPP 2) between APP 6.1-6.3. It is not clear why this has been done and
it is potentially confusing and misleading. Sub-section (1) is not only meaningless
without an understanding that 6.2 and 6.3 contains ‘exceptions’ to consent, but is
actively misleading in that it implies that consent has a much more prominent role than
it does in reality.
Submission: APP 6 needs to be rewritten so as not to be confusing and misleading,
Consent should be only one of a number of conditions for use and disclosure, with all
exceptions in a single clause, so as to give a much more realistic impression of the effect of
the law.
In relation to the other conditions, we submit that the same range of criticisms we have
outlined above in relation to the collection principle (APP 3) apply equally to APP 6.
These relate to the following APP 6 ‘exceptions’, :
(b) … required or authorised by or under law …
(c) – invoking the following ‘general permitted situations’ exceptions from Table 1 in
– threat to life health etc…
– unlawful activity or misconduct…
– diplomatic etc functions …
– missing persons …
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.16 July 2012
(e) … enforcement related activities
Submission: We make the same criticisms and suggestions in relation to the exceptions to
APP 6 as we made above in relation to APP 3.
We note that the ALRC’s recommendation for an additional exception for alternative
dispute resolution (ADR) processes has been included – as item 5 in Table 1 in s16A(1),
invoked in relation to use and disclosure by APP 6.2(c).
Submission: The word ‘prescribed’ be added so that only bona fide ADR schemes would
An additional exception is proposed for uses or disclosures ‘reasonably necessary for
the establishment, exercise or defence of a legal or equitable claim’ (Item 4 in Table 1 in
s16A(1), invoked by APP 6.2(c)).
Submission: The exception in relation to legal or equitable claim is disproportionate as it
requires no assessment of how trivial that claim may be in comparison with the effect on a
person’s privacy.
APP 6.7 requires entities using or disclosing personal information under exception (e) –
enforcement related activities – to make a written note. Logically, this safeguard should
apply to all exceptions which are of an ‘exceptional’ nature i.e. likely to be used only
Submission: The important accountability requirement in APP 6.7 should extend other
exceptions of a similar ‘exceptional’ kind to (e).
APP 6.7 disapplies the general Use and Disclosure principle from any use or disclosure
of personal information for the purpose of direct marketing, or of government
identifiers. This is presumably intended to refer to use and disclosure that is subject to,
respectively, APP 7 (direct marketing) and APP 9 (government identifiers) although this
link is not expressly stated – we submit that it should be, for clarity. However, we also
submit that this provision is unnecessary and harmful. It is a complete departure both
from the ALRC’s recommendations (UPPs 5, 6 & 10) and the existing NPPs 2 & 7, which
have direct marketing and identifier principles as ‘extra requirements’ applying over
and above the normal application of the use and disclosure principle (to the extent that
they are compatible). We submit that the ALRC’s recommendations for these activity
and information specific principles, on which APP 7 and APP 9 are based, were not
designed as ‘stand alone’ regimes, and that the attempt to separate them would have
unintended and undesirable consequences.
Submission: APP 6 should apply to the activities covered by APP 7 (direct marketing) and
APP 9 (government identifiers).
APP 7: Direct Marketing – Complex, confusing and weak
We repeat our submission from our response to the ALRC Report:
“We believe the principle should apply to both agencies and organisations on the grounds that the boundaries
between private and public sectors are increasingly blurred, and government agencies are now commonly
undertaking direct marketing activities. As we noted in our earlier submission, the equivalent principle in the Hong
Kong Ordinance applies to all sectors, and the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner has found public sector bodies
in breach of it. Government agencies will still be able to justify some direct marketing campaigns – the proposed
principle accommodates this, while giving individuals the choice not to receive some government communications
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.17 July 2012
through these channels. Governments can generally rely on generic ‘broadcast’ media to promote services,
compliance issues etc.”
Submission: APP 7 should not apply only to private sector organisations, but should apply
to government agencies as well, i.e. to all ‘APP entities’.
We note the effect of section 7A of the existing Act which would apply APP 7 to
commercial activities of some prescribed agencies, but we submit that this is not an
adequate substitute for a generic application of the principle to all government agencies.
We also note that the exemption for most agencies has been expressly extended to
cover any contracted service providers (APP 7.5), and consider this unnecessary, on the
same basis. With the application of APP 7 to agencies, there would also need to be an
exception for where direct marketing communications were required or specifically
authorised by law.
APP 7.2 and 7.3 and 7.6 appear to have the effect of requiring all organisations to
maintain a facility to allow people to ‘opt-out’ of direct marketing, but only those
covered by 7.3 have to do anything to draw an individual’s attention to it, and even then
not with any prescribed level of prominence. Under 7.2, if the individual would
reasonably expect to receive marketing communications, they are not even required to
be notified – this seems perverse and is a very weak provision. All the evidence
suggests that most individuals are only too aware that they are likely to receive direct
marketing from organisations with which they have dealt, but that it is precisely these
communications they wish to be able to stop!
Given that APP 7.6 and 7.7 appear to give individuals the right to opt-out from any
direct marketing communications from organisations, we do not understand why 7.2
and 7.3 are needed, since their only effect seems to be to limit the knowledge of that
APP 7.6 gives individuals an express right to request an organisation not to send direct
marketing communications, and not to supply it to any other organisation (but not
government agencies!) for that purpose, and to require organisations to honour such
requests within a reasonable time and free of charge. Individuals can also request an
organisation to provide their ‘source’; i.e. to ask the question ‘where did you get my
name’, although this is undermined by a broad exception in 7.7 where it is ‘impractical
or unreasonable’ for the organisation to answer – we submit that this exception is
highly likely to be abused.
Submission: The Direct Marketing Principle should be simplified and strengthened,
including by requiring notification of opt-out and related rights in every marketing
We note that the major loophole of the exemption for charities and political solicitations
(also embedded in the Spam and Do Not Call Register regimes) is not addressed in this
Bill. We submit that individuals do not typically distinguish between commercial and
charitable solicitations from a privacy perspective, and that they should have the same
rights in relation to both.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.18 July 2012
The apparently strong condition for direct marketing involving ‘sensitive information’
in APP 7.4 – that it be with consent, is undermined by the general weakness that
‘consent’ is defined in the Act as including implied consent.
Submission: In the context of APP 7.4, express consent should be required, otherwise
organisations will be free to use small print in terms and conditions, and ‘bundled consent’
to allow them to direct market using sensitive information.
APP 8: Cross-border disclosure – Fictional accountability, no real protection
The most controversial new principle is APP 8, which, at the urgings of the ALRC,
abandons what it calls a ‘border protection’ approach in favour of the approach misdescribed
as ‘accountability’ Given that the existing NPP 9 in effect allows personal data
to be exported to any country (not matter how weak its laws) if ‘reasonable steps’ are
taken to ensure that the data is used consistently with the NPPs, and that Australian law
has not developed any interpretation of what are ‘reasonable steps’, the differences in
the Australian context are probably more apparent that real. The real issue is whether
what is proposed is any better than the current extremely weak protection.
Under APP 8.1, an Australian company or agency will be able to send personal
information anywhere in the world (subject to APP 6). If it is not completely exempt
from any liability for what then happens to the information (under nine separate
exemptions), then it will be liable under the Australian Act for any acts by the overseas
recipient that would breach the APPs if the APPs applied to it (s20). This applies to acts
by any overseas recipient, even one that might be exempt under Australian law in
Australia (for example, a ‘small business’). The Australian exporter will also breach APP
8 if it fails to take reasonable steps, before exporting data, to ensure that the overseas
recipient does not breach the APPs (other than APP 1). There is no definition of such
steps, nor any proposed power for the Commissioner to issue guidelines or model
contracts. We submit that it is essential that the Commissioner should issue guidelines
concerning model clauses or a model contract clauses before any organisation can rely
on a contract as meeting the ‘reasonable steps’ test in APP 8.1.
Curiously, the exporter does not have to take steps to ensure the importer complies
with APP 1, the only APP where it is relatively easy to prove that an overseas recipient
is in breach (because it does not have an available Privacy Policy). And that indicates
the main weakness: in relation to all the other APPs, how does an individual in Australia
prove on the balance of probabilities how a breach has occurred in an overseas country,
and one which by definition has no similar privacy laws of its own (if it did, the exporter
would be exempt from any liability under one of the exemptions)? The purported
‘accountability’ remains a fiction. We submit that a breach by an overseas recipient
should be a rebuttable presumption if damage to the individual can reasonably be
assumed to have resulted from the export. That would be real ‘accountability’, but it is
lacking at present. We have amended s20 to this effect, by addition of s20(3) to provide
some reasonable prospect for complainants to enforce ‘accountability’ without facing
insurmountable problems of onus and burden of proof..
Another weakness is that APP 8 won’t even require individuals to be given notice at the
time that their data is going … somewhere or other. If organisations were required to
give such notice, they would think twice before doing so, and individuals would be on
guard for damage. We have already commented above on the weakness in APPs 1 & 5
that only require policies and collection notices to specify likely destination countries ‘if
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.19 July 2012
practicable’ and contain no requirement to explain the level (or lack of) privacy
protection in those countries.
But APP 8.1 is at least an attempt at regulation of overseas transfers. It is however
fatally undermined by APP 8.2, coupled with s16A, which provides at least nine
separate grounds on which a data exporter can be exempt from even the theoretical
liability/’accountability’ of APP 8.1.
The first exception is where the exporter ‘reasonably believes’ in the existence of an
overseas law or binding scheme, that ‘has the effect of protecting the information in a
way that, overall, is at least substantially similar’ to the APPs, with mechanisms for
redress and enforcement (APP 8.2(a)). As we have emphasised in previous
submissions, this is completely unacceptable basis for allowing cross border transfers.
Some organisations will inevitably make self-serving judgements about the level of
protection in other jurisdictions and/or pay for advice that supports their desire to
transfer. Similar protection should be an exception to any prohibition on transfer, but it
must be based on objective criteria.
The only practical approach to remedying this defect in the current Bill is simply to
delete ‘the entity reasonably believes that’, so that the question of the effectiveness of
the overseas privacy protections becomes a question of fact, to be determined initially
by the Privacy Commissioner on the basis of a complaint, and ultimately by a court on
appeal. Such ex post facto determinations may discourage exports of Australians’
personal information to countries where privacy protection is questionable, but that
would be a good result. It would be preferably if there could be some prior considered
assessment of similarity or adequacy by experts, such as the Privacy Commissioner, and
this could be achieved by guidelines under the current Act. A binding ‘white list’
scheme is a feature of privacy laws in some other jurisdictions and could usefully be
adopted in Australian law, provided it was based on objective assessments, not politics.
Submission: The solution to the problems of APP 8 is to delete the words ‘the entity
reasonably believes that’, so that the question of the effectiveness of the overseas privacy
protections becomes a question of fact, to be determined initially by the Privacy
Commissioner on the basis of a complaint, and ultimately by a court on appeal.
The second exception is where there is consent based on explicit notice that the
exporter accepts no liability (‘accountability’) for whatever happens overseas (APP
8.2(b)). But there is no requirement for the organisation to explain the ‘risk’ either
generally or in relation to the specific destination, and consent can still be ‘implied’ so
this is likely to result in completely ineffective ‘small print’ notices tucked away in
standard terms and conditions.
Submission: Any exception based on explicit notice that the exporter accepts no liability
must include an express requirement for the organisation to explain the risk involved.
Another exception is where Australia is a party to some international agreement that
relates to information sharing (APP 8.2(e)) – this would in effect abrogate Australian
sovereignty and is an example of ‘policy laundering’ – hiding behind often spurious
claims of ‘international obligations’ to justify actions which would not otherwise be
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.20 July 2012
Submission: The exceptions for international agreements should be deleted as they will
encourage policy laundering.
Although we reject the abandonment of a ‘border control’ approach that underlies APP
8, the existing NPP 9 is itself so weak that an improved APP 8 could be an improvement.
It is not an improvement in its current form, but with the changes we propose, it would
be an improvement on NPP 9.
Submission: The two key changes required to APP 8 are: (i) an objective standard for the
level of privacy protection provided in another country; and (ii) more disclosure of the
details of an overseas transfer to individuals before they are asked to consent to it (and
thus lose their rights to any remedy).
APP 9: Government identifiers – Weaker protection in the private sector
The existing restrictions on the private sector using Commonwealth government
identifiers (NPP 7) have been strengthened by extension to the use of State or Territory
government identifiers. However, APP 9 only applies to the private sector
(organisations), and the Use and Disclosure principle (APP 6) now does not apply to an
organisation (private sector) in relation to government related identifiers. Previously,
both principles applied. In contrast, the government identifiers principle will not apply
to the use of such identifiers by government agencies, but APP 6 on use and disclosure
will apply to such uses. The most significant abuse of government identifiers, data
matching by government agencies, stays conveniently out of reach of APP 9.
Submission: APP 9 should apply to all situations where the previous NPP 7 applied.
APP 10: Quality
Reasonable steps to ensure accuracy, currency and completeness of information
collected is required, and relevance also required at the time of use or disclosure. These
are conventional principles of international standard. We do not recommend any
APP 11: Security and deletion
The security principle, and the requirement to delete or de-identify remain much the
same and are also principles of international standard. We do not recommend any
APP 12: Access
Access is not controversial in principle, but its technical details and exemptions can be.
For government agencies, the principle defers to Freedom of Information legislation for
these matters. For organisations, the principle specifies the grounds for withholding
and also sets out requirements for access processes, and allows for ‘not excessive’
charges, Compared to the ALRC’s proposed access principle, additional grounds for
withholding have been introduced, and others expanded, without any convincing
justification. The Committee should look at this, but we do not recommend any changes.
APP 13: Correction
APP13 fixes a deficiency in the previous IPPs (federal government principles) by
allowing individuals to request correction of records irrespective whether access to the
records might be blocked because of an exemption from access. It also allows
individuals to request that corrections be notified to any previous recipients of the
corrected information from the entity concerned. This is an improvement, though it still
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.21 July 2012
leaves it the individual to identify the recipient, rather than to request ‘please notify all
previous recipients of the incorrect information’. it is likely that principle 12 would
allow individuals to request a list of all previous recipients of information about them,
so they could then lodge a list of requests for notificiaton. It would be a useful addition
to APP 13 to include a Note to this effect.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.22 July 2012
4 Credit Reporting: A major loss of financial privacy for
what return?
Schedule 2 of the Bill is a major re-write of the Credit reporting provisions in the Act
(Part IIIA) which have been in effect, largely unchanged, since 1991.
It is important to understand that the credit reporting system (both now and under
these amendments) is a statutorily authorised intrusion into individuals’ privacy, and in
effect a ‘licenced’ exception to the normal operation of the default private sector Privacy
Principles in the Privacy Act (now the NPPs, and proposed APPs).
There has never been anything to stop lenders asking applicants for loans about their
existing commitments, and making evidence of such commitments (e.g. bank
references) a condition of a loan. Lenders do not of course want to do this – it would be
costly and ‘annoy’ many applicants. The government decided, in 1989, to insert Part
IIIA into the Privacy Act to allow, and regulate, a system of ‘no choice’ exchange of credit
reporting information. This was justified on the basis that the public interest in the
efficiency of the consumer credit market outweighed the inherent loss of personal
privacy involved in a system of centralised credit reporting.
It is important to understand this context because the proposed amendments involve
the ‘licensing’ of a significant further intrusion into individuals’ privacy, with no choice
(other than not to apply for credit at all, including telephone or electricity accounts –
which is unrealistic in the modern economy). Any suggestion that lenders and utility
companies have a ‘right’ to centrally held credit reporting information should therefore
be dismissed – the credit reporting system is a privilege, and it is incumbent on industry
to justify any extension, and appropriate for the system to be very tightly regulated.
More comprehensive reporting
Comprehensive credit reporting will give credit providers access to additional personal
information to assist them in establishing an individual’s credit worthiness. As the
Explanatory Memorandum states:
“This means a limited number of additional kinds of credit related personal information
about individuals are permitted in the credit reporting system. The five new kinds of
personal information (also known in the industry as ‘data sets’) are:
• the date the credit account was opened
• the type of credit account opened
• the date the credit account was closed
• the current limit of each open credit account; and
• repayment performance history about the individual.” (EM p3)
It is asserted that:
“The additional personal information will allow credit providers to make a more
robust assessment of credit risk and assist credit providers to meet their responsible
lending obligations. It is expected that this will lead to decreased levels of overAPF
submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.23 July 2012
indebtedness and lower credit default rates. More comprehensive credit reporting is
also expected to improve competition and efficiency in the credit market, which may
result in reductions to the cost of credit for individuals.” (EM p3)
Overseas research shows that access to more personal data leads to an overall increase
in the level of consumer credit. Lenders will use this information to enable more
profitable lending. While this often aligns with lending that benefits the individual, this
is not always the case. We continue to have concerns that the increase in levels of
consumer credit will have a detrimental effect on some consumers – but the overall
impact will depend on the detail of this increase – which consumers will receive the
additional credit and what types of credit products will be offered. We welcome the
imposition of ‘responsible lending’ conditions for participation in the credit reporting
provisions, which protects consumers against the more blatant irresponsible lending
practices, but this does not mean that consumer vulnerabilities will not be exploited to
provide credit which is not in the consumer’s best interests. We draw the Committee’s
attention to a fact sheet relevant to this issue from Consumer Action Victoria5.
These additional data sets represent a major increase in the level of statutorily
authorised intrusion into the financial affairs of most Australians. The APF has
consistently argued that this move towards more comprehensive reporting is
unnecessary and undesirable, especially in the context of recent history of irresponsible
lending, contributing to the global financial crisis of 2008-09. We suggest that the
government’s decision to only allow a more limited extension than the industry would
have liked validates many of our concerns.
The Explanatory Memorandum includes a lengthy Regulation Impact Statement (pp 14-
29 of the EM) devoted to the credit reporting reforms. The main conclusion of this RIS
is that :
“The introduction of more comprehensive credit reporting in the form of the
additional five data sets will provide consumer credit providers with the opportunity
to access enhanced information to establish an individual’s credit worthiness. It is
expected that this will allow more robust assessments of consumer credit risk, both in
the market as a whole and in relation to individual applications, which can assist
responsible lending and potentially lead to lower consumer credit default rates. The
economic benefits to industry and individuals alike outweigh the reduction of privacy
protections to these categories of personal information.” (EM p29)
In this context, we draw the Committee’s attention to the Comprehensive Reporting
pilot currently being undertaken by most of the major lenders and one of the major
Credit Reporting bodies – Veda. This pilot involves a massive database of credit
information about most Australian borrowers, carefully de-identified to avoid breaching
the current Privacy Act controls. The database is being used to model the likely effect of
comprehensive reporting. It has already produced both valuable new information
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.24 July 2012
about the ‘profile’ of consumer credit in Australia, and preliminary findings about the
possible changes in lending that could follow the availability of the five extra data sets.
Consumer groups and the Privacy Commissioner were consulted about the pilot, and
could see value in the exercise, provided it was strictly managed. However, the full
value will only be realised if the findings are available to inform the development of
public policy, including this Inquiry. We believe that at least some of this valuable
information could be made public, without insuperable obstacles of commercial
confidentiality. We urge the Committee to seek a summary of the findings from Veda
(which is administering the pilot), as we believe they are relevant to consideration of
the merits of the proposed changes – specifically in relation to the claims made about
the predictive value of repayment history in section of the RIS in the EM.
Submission: The Committee should seek access to relevant findings of the current
Comprehensive Reporting pilot.
We believe that new information, together with changing circumstances in relation to
the financial sector since the ALRC was conducting its review in 2005-08, warrant a reassessment
of the balance between the alleged benefits of comprehensive reporting and
the inevitable major loss of financial privacy for all Australians.
Submission: The Committee should seriously consider, in the light of all available
evidence, whether the provisions of the Bill providing for more comprehensive credit
reporting should be approved.
Outstanding concerns with the Credit Reporting provisions
We note that the Consumer Action Law Centre has made a submission to this Inquiry
raising concerns about four aspects of Schedule 2. These relate to:
• Serious Credit Infringements: definition of Serious Credit Infringement at proposed
section 6(1) – a preferable solution has been proposed jointly by Veda Advantage and
consumer advocates (including APF).
• Requests to correct information: While welcoming the removal in proposed section 20U
of the two-step complaint process which was in the previous exposure draft, the
provision still does not meet the standard recommended by the Australian Law Reform
Commission in For Your Information and accepted by the Government.
• Complaint handling: While strongly supporting the intent behind the complaint
handling process at proposed section 23B, concern that the obligation may ultimately be
counter-productive – an alternative is recommended.
• Hardship variations: Any approach to listing hardship variations should be
designed to ensure consumers are not discouraged from approaching their
lenders and requesting hardship variations when needed.
APF has been an active participant, with CALC and other consumer groups, in
discussions with Veda and with ARCA over the last few years. Rather than repeat the
CALC arguments, APF endorses their submission on these matters in full.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.25 July 2012
Telecommunications and other Utilities
We note that ACCAN has made a submission to the Committee concerning the special
circumstances of telecommunications consumers in relation to the credit reporting
system. We are aware that ACANN’s concerns are shared by financial counselling NGOs.
APF defers to ACCAN’s expertise in this area, and endorses their recommendations 3-7.
We understand that similar difficulties are experienced by customers of other utilities
such as energy suppliers, and consideration should be given to making the telco
amendments suggested by ACCAN apply to all utilities.
Submission: The Committee should recommend that the government give serious
consideration to the amendments suggested by ACCAN in recommendations 3-7 in their
submission, and also to applying these amendments to all utilities.
Location of provisions – Act vs Regulations vs Code
Throughout the lengthy consultation on reform of the credit reporting provisions, APF
together with other NGOs has been concerned to ensure that as many as possible of the
key provisions are ‘locked in’ in the legislation itself. While Regulations can be a useful
mechanism in limited circumstances, they are notoriously weaker than statute – being
more easily changed and typically subject to much less scrutiny by Parliament than
primary legislation.
We are even more concerned to ensure that important provisions, and safeguards, are
not left to the proposed Credit Reporting Code, to be approved by the Information
Commissioner. However widely the Information Commissioner consults in the
preparation of a Code (see comments on Part IIIB below), there is a clear ‘democratic
deficit’ in this process. Experience with the similar role of the Privacy Commissioner
under Part IIIA is that industry pressure can lead to Code provisions which undermine
the effect of the Act. An example is the Privacy Commissioner’s interpretation of the
permissible timing of notice of default listings. While we accept the role of a Code in
fleshing out some of the operational details, we do not believe it is the place for any
significant threshold provisions.
To the extent that some matters are proposed to be dealt with in Regulations, it is
important that the Parliament is able to see draft Regulations whilst debating the Bill –
otherwise the interrelationship, and adequacy of the overall regulatory package, cannot
be properly assessed.
We have identified the following provisions where Regulations are proposed – some of
them are very significant determinants of the scope and effect of the regulatory scheme:
• Additional criteria for use and disclosure of CRI by CRB – proposed s20E (3)(f)
• Additional requirements for disclosure of CI by CP to CRB – proposed s21D(3)(c)
• Additional uses and disclosures for CEI by CPs – proposed s21G(2) (d) and (e) and
(3)(f) & g)
• Definition of credit reporting body – proposed s6P(4) allows for exclusions by regs
• Threshold $ amount in definition of default information – proposed s6Q
• Additional detail for definition of repayment history information – proposed s6V(2)
• Definition of credit provider – proposed s6G(1)(d) – provides for additions and
s6G(5) and (6) for prohibitions
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.26 July 2012
• Definition of credit reporting body – proposed s6P provides for agencies to be
Some of these matters would have a profound effect on the scope and effect of the
regulatory scheme for credit reporting.
Submission: The Committee should seek confirmation of this list and insist that draft
Regulations be made available for consideration alongside the Bill.
Similarly, the Committee should seek a clear statement of what matters it is proposed
be left to the proposed CR Code.
Those we have identified so far are:
• Pre-screening – s20G(2)(f)
• Means of access – CRVs s20R(4) and CPs s21T(4)
• Additional notification requirements for CPs – s21C(1)
• Contents of notice by CPs – s21P(2))
Submission: The Committee should seek confirmation of this list and clarification of the
likely scope of any Code provisions dealing with these matters, for consideration alongside
the Bill
Definitions concerning credit reporting
Various concepts are either new, revised or defined in the Act for the first time – ‘credit’;
‘credit information’ (CI); ‘credit reporting information (CRI) ‘commercial credit’;
commercial credit related purpose; ‘consumer credit’; consumer credit related
purpose’; consumer credit liability information’ (CCLI); credit eligibility information’
(CEI); ‘credit worthiness’; ‘CP derived information’ (CPDI); ‘CRB derived information’
(CRBDI); ‘credit reporting business’ (CRbus); ‘credit reporting body’ (CRB), and ‘credit
provider’ (CP) (definitions either in s6(1) and/or in new ss. 6G-6V).
This hardly constitutes the ‘simplification’ desired by all parties and promised in the
EM, and we submit that the scheme is now effectively too complex to be readily
explicable, posing a serious risk of non-compliance and/or inability of consumers to
effectively exercise their rights. At the very least the definitions need careful review to
ensure they ‘work’ as intended.
Submission: The Committee should give serious consideration to whether the credit
reporting provisions in the Bill (Schedule 2) are simply too complex and should be sent
back to the government for a better attempt at the simplification recommended by the
ALRC and widely supported
We note that the definition of ‘consumer credit’ is different from that in the recently
introduced National Credit Code6 This is unhelpful. If intentional, the reasons need to
be explained.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.27 July 2012
Submission: The Committee should request an explanation from government as to the
justification (if any) for the discrepancy between the two definitions, and why this
confusion could not be avoided with an alternative term.
A new concept of ‘Identification Information’ (II) is defined in s6(1) and used in the
definition of credit information (proposed s6N) – definition of II is ‘context specific’ to
credit reporting and it would be better not to introduce a term into Australian law
which may be taken out of context and used as a precedent in other contexts –
Submission: The term ‘Identifying Information’ should be replaced with Credit
Identifying Information’.
A new concept of ‘access seeker’ is defined in proposed s6L(1) – and this seems
appropriate as used in proposed s20R and s21T. However, the prohibition on credit
providers etc being an access seeker effected through s6L(2) is clumsy and potentially
ineffective – an individual will not be in a position to know that they ‘must not
authorise’ a Credit Provider or one of the other specified types of entity.
Submission: The prohibition on Credit Providers et al being access seekers must apply
directly to these entities, rather than relying on individuals knowing that they can (must?)
refuse to authorise such entities.
We note that ACCAN has made a submission to the Committee recommending an
amendment to the ‘exception’ in proposed s6L for the National Relay Service. ACCAN
makes the valid point that there are other providers of similar services to the NRS, and
they propose a further conditional exception, with the Minister able to determine other
relay services and the Information Commissioner to maintain a register. We support
this amendment.
Submission: The Committee should recommend the amendment of proposed s6L suggested
by ACCAN in recommendations 1 and 2 in their submision.
‘Internal management …. directly related to the provision or management of … credit’
(as used in proposed s21H) is undefined – this term is too loose and therefore open to
abuse. We understand that industry may have its own definition of this but it is vital
that it should be more narrowly defined, since a broad interpretation could fatally
compromise the intention of the legislation to strictly limit uses of credit reporting
information. The financial counselling NGOs should be invited to suggest specific
Submission: The Committee should recommend that the government negotiate a narrower
definition of ‘internal management …’ for the purposes of the credit reporting regime.
The exclusion of real estate agents, general insurers and employers from the definition
of ‘credit provider’ in proposed s6G (5) is welcome but the precise effect is unclear.
The past intention was been to deny them access to CRI altogether – we submit that the
Committee should seek assurances that is this still the effect.
Specifically, the use of credit reporting for assessing potential tenants should be
prohibited, as businesses other than real estate agents can and do undertake the
management of rental properties (including landlords).
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.28 July 2012
Submission: The Committee should seek assurance from the government that the use of
credit reporting information by real estate agents, general insurers and employers is
effectively precluded by proposed s6G(5)
Submission: The use of credit reporting information by any person or body for the
purpose of assessing potential tenants should be expressly prohibited.
Division 2 – Credit Reporting Bodies
Overseas transfers
In proposed s20B (the equivalent of APP1), there is no equivalent to APP 1.4 (f) and (g),
and there is no equivalent at all to APP8, both concerning overseas transfers. It is not
clear that ‘Australian link’ provisions (which effectively prohibit disclosure of
information from the credit reporting system to foreign credit reporting bodies or
foreign credit providers would also regulate the disclosure of credit information to
other overseas recipients for other purposes. Any such disclosures would expressly not
be covered by the APPs.
Submission: The Committee should seek assurances that the Bill would not create a gap in
which some overseas disclosures of information from the credit reporting system would be
We question why it is necessary to provide for extra uses/disclosures to be authorised
by Regulation (proposed ss. 20E, 21DE and 21G) given that this is not provided for in
the equivalent APP 6. Why is this flexibility considered appropriate only for credit
reporting? In our view, the necessary uses and disclosures were thoroughly canvassed
during the ALRC and subsequent consultation processes and it should be possible for
the legislation to contain a definitive list. The EM gives assurances that any proposed
regulations would be the subject of consultation, but this is both unreliable and an
insufficient safeguard.
Submission: The Committee should seek an explanation as to why it is necessary to provide
for extra uses/disclosures of credit reporting information and credit eligibility information
to be authorised by Regulation, when no such flexibility is considered necessary in the APP
Direct marketing and pre-screening
Proposed ss 20G-20J place some welcome limits on the use of credit reporting
information for direct marketing and pre-screening. There are however two remaining
Section 20G(5) provides for an ’opt-out’ from the use of credit information for prescreening
but this will not work well as there is no direct relationship/contact between
individual and a CRB – it is unrealistic to rely on individuals ‘finding’ a CRB to opt-out –
they must be given the opportunity via their direct relationship with a Credit Provider.
Section 20G(2) does after all purport to regulate pre-screening by a CRB on behalf of a
CP. Consistent with the general approach to direct marketing regulation under not just
the Privacy Act but also the Spam Act 2003 and Do Not Call Register Act 2006, credit
providers should be expressly required to offer a clear ‘opt-out’ offer in all relevant
communications, including loan offers sent after any pre-screening.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.29 July 2012
Submission: We submit that a specific and detailed obligation on Credit Providers to offer
an opt-out from pre-screening should be included in Division 3 of the revised Part IIIA.
In proposed s20G(7) (and elsewhere), there is provision for ‘written notes’ of particular
actions. It is unclear as to how this would be implemented in electronic records and/or
automated systems, and the value is also unclear; i.e. who gets to see them in what
circumstances – or are they just for post-facto audit?
More generally, the term “written note” is used throughout the Bill – it would be clearer
if the requirements were for a “record” rather than a “note”, and there was an express
obligation to retain the records. It is unclear as to whether these notes/records will be
included in the credit report so that the individual can access them, and if necessary
challenge them. We believe they should be.
Submission: The term ‘written note’ should be replaced with ‘record’ throughout the Bill,
and an obligation added to retain such ‘records’.
Submission: In proposed s20G(7) the “note” (record) in relation to access for prescreening
purposes should expressly be required to be made available to the individual
whenever s/he obtains a copy of the credit report.
Given the limited amount of data that can be used in pre-screening, it appears that in
allowing the CP to determine the eligibility requirements, some CPs may only choose to
exclude people with no defaults; more than one default etc. It would also appear
possible for a CP to screen out those without defaults.
Also, if pre-screening is to allow offers to be made to consumers who have defaults, we
would question the benefits (if any) of pre-screening in contributing to responsible
lending – see our general comments above about the overall public benefit in allowing
more comprehensive reporting.
Submission: The law should only allow pre-screening to use default, SCI, judgment and
bankruptcy information, and should only be used to filter out negative information – it
should not be lawful to filter out people who don’t have defaults.
Ban periods for suspected fraud by a third party
Proposed s20K provides for an individual to trigger a ‘ban period’ – this is welcome, but
there should also be provision for action by CRBs becoming aware of possible third
party fraud by other means, which is arguably much more likely than an individual’s
report. In such cases CRBs should be required to consult the individual about the
imposition of a ban period.
The ban can be triggered by an individual’s ‘reasonable belief’ that they (may) have
been the victim of fraud (ss(1)(b)), but it is not clear whether this ‘reasonableness can
be assessed or challenged by the CRB (we note that the EM seeks to re-assure on this
matter but we are not convinced that the provision is clear enough to prevent unhelpful
We note that for the ban period to be extended it is the CRB which must have the
reasonable belief (ss(4)(c)), but that there is no obligation on the CRB to make
reasonable enquiries.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.30 July 2012
Submission: There should be an obligation on the CRB to make reasonable enquiries
about alleged fraud in forming their ‘reasonable belief’ to justify extension of a ban.
Proposed subsection (4)(d) gives too much discretion to the CRB in relation to
extension of the ban period – there needs to be some mechanism for individuals to
appeal decisions they disagree with – e.g. to the Information Commissioner.
Proposed s20K(2)(a) seems too broad – why would an individual have consented in
writing to disclosure under the whole CRB Division and when would this be directly
relevant to a specific instance of suspected fraud? If this provision is only intended to
allow an individual who has initiated a ban to lift it before the default 21 day period has
elapsed (an important right for innocent fraud victims), then it should be more
narrowly constructed. It should also be possible for an individual to authorise a specific
disclosure while leaving an overall ban in place – this could be of critical importance to
an individual’s financial situation.
We envisage that any potential CP who saw there was a ban would wait until the ban
was lifted before providing credit, or at least make appropriate enquiries of the
individual, and/or other parties.
Submission: Some inconsistencies and uncertainties in the operation of the ‘ban’ provision
need to be resolved. This may require amendments. The Bill should provide for CRBs to
initiate consultation with an individual about a ban whenever they become aware of
possible fraud, for appeal rights, and for the ability to selectively authorise disclosures
while a ban is in place.
Government issued identifiers
Proposed s20L is the equivalent of APP9. As with APP9, it is unclear what ‘adopt … as its
own identifier’ means in practice. If it would potentially apply to State and Territory
Drivers Licence Numbers (DLN) , would the inclusion of DLN in the definition of
‘identification information’ in s6(1) invoke s20L(2) to allow their use?
Submission: The Committee should seek clarification of the effect of proposed s20L.
De-identified information
Proposed s20M provides for rules relating to the use of de-identified information to be
made by the Information Commissioner, but leaves too much discretion – the IC (‘may…
make ; ‘… any Rules …”)
Submission: There should be an obligation on the Commissioner to make such rules.
Proposed s20R(5) provides for only one free access request per year. This limitation
needs justifying, and must allow for more than one free when requests are associated
with dispute resolution etc.
Submission: The Act should allow for more than one free when requests are associated
with dispute resolution.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.31 July 2012
Proposed s20S is a separate correction obligation when the CRA becomes aware by
other means (separate from correction ‘on request’ which is addressed in proposed
s20T). This separation is acceptable in principle but there is no justification for the
‘notice of correction’ obligations in proposed s20U to only apply to correction requests
initiated by the individual under s20T and not to other corrections under s20S.
Submission; Notice of objection obligations in proposed s20U should apply to corrections
under both s20T and s20S.
Unlike in the equivalent APP 13, there is no provision for an’ associated statement’ if a
correction request remains disputed. Also, we have concerns about exception in
s20U(4) where it is ‘impracticable’ for a CRB to give notice to a recipient of credit
reporting information that the information has been corrected. There is similar
wording in some other sections. We can’t understand why it might be impracticable for
a CRB to record ‘associated statements’ and to provide both corrected information and
‘associated statements’ to a recipient if it has appropriate systems in place. Individuals
should not be deprived of rights as a consequence of technological choices or business
process decisions – it is up to the industry to devise means of flagging corrected or
disputed information and bringing it to the attention of users.
Submission: There should be an obligation on CRBs to add an ‘associated statement’ to a
individual’s record where a correction dispute remains unresolved, as applies under
Proposed s20T incorporates a welcome time limit (ss(2) and requirement to consult
(ss(3). However, there is no time limit where the CRB is not satisfied and needs to
consult. The provisions are weaker than the ALRC’s recommendation 59-8 which was to
require a CRB to delete or correct challenged information if the CP did not either
substantiate the information or refer the dispute to a recognized EDR scheme within 30
Submission: ALRC recommendation 59-8 should be implemented in full.
Division 3 – Credit Providers
Proposed s21C(1) leaves the detail of additional content of the required notice (beyond
what will be required under APP5 and the name of the CRB) to the proposed Code. This
is a very important matter and we submit that more detailed content requirements
should be included in the Act, as well as more specific requirements as to timing of
notice in the credit reporting context, which has been a contentious issue under the
existing scheme.
There appears to be a major gap in the scheme in terms of notification of individuals
close to the time that a CP lists default or SCI information with a CRB – the legislation
appears to allow a CP to rely on the initial notice given at the time the loan was taken
out, to warn borrowers of the risk of listing.
This is the case with the current laws, although the PC has allowed this notice to be
provided just prior to listing, even if there was no notice provided at the time the
consumer first provided information to the credit provider.
It is not appropriate for this information to be provided only once – whether this is at
the time that initial information is collected or just prior to a default listing being made.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.32 July 2012
Submission: The Bill should require that consumers are notified at the time their personal
information is collected (at the time they apply for credit) and it should also expressly
require notice within a reasonably short time period before any listing, irrespective of what
notice has been provided earlier; e.g. when the loan was taken out.
Disclosure of credit information to a credit reporting body
Proposed section 21D has a very confusing construction, mixing up type of information,
limits and conditions
Submission – Clause 21D should be re-drafted to follow a more logical and easily
explained sequence of ‘type of information’ , then limits, then conditions.
Further to our general concern about Regulations, expressed above, we submit that the
Committee should ask what if any Regulations under s21D(3)(c)(iii) are proposed from
In s21D (3)(d)(ii), ‘reasonable period’ is too subjective and leaves it to the judgment of
the CP – we submit that the Act should specify a minimum – we suggest 14 days.
Submission – Clause 21D (3)(d)(ii) should specify a minimum period
We submit that there should be a fairness provision in s21D that requires CPs to
consider any special hardship circumstances, such as hospitalisation, natural disaster,
bank error; etc, that they are aware of, before listing defaults or adverse repayment
history, permitted by (3)(d) and (c) respectively.
Submission – There should be an obligation on Credit Providers to consider hardship
factors and a borrower’s circumstances before listing any defaults or adverse repayment
Use or disclosure of credit eligibility information
In proposed s21G(3), ownership should not override the purpose limitations –
individuals typically have no understanding, or interest, in corporate structures and
their reasonable expectation is that their dealings are with the entity with whom they
are transacting – uses and disclosures by and to ‘related bodies corporate’ should be
subject to the same rules as for other third parties. The limits placed on related bodies
corporate by proposed s22D do not adequately address this concern. This is a more
general criticism of the Privacy Act’s approach to related bodies corporate but has
particular significance in the context of credit reporting.
Submission: Disclosures to related bodies corporate should be subject to the same rules as
for other third parties.
In proposed s21G(3)(e)(ii) it is not clear why ‘or credit reporting body’ is included,
since this section is entirely about an obligation of credit providers?
Submission: The Committee should seek an explanation of the inclusion of ‘or CRB’ in
proposed s s21G(3)(e)(ii)
Direct marketing and pre-screening
There are no direct marketing or pre-screening controls applying directly on CPs – all
are via the CRB obligations in Division 2 – as we have argued above this is
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.33 July 2012
unsatisfactory – individuals will not routinely have contact with a CRB to be offered
‘opt-outs’ – and may leave other loopholes..
Submission: Division 3 should contain appropriate versions of the Division 2 controls on
direct marketing and pre-screening, applying expressly to credit providers
Permitted use of credit eligibility information in relation to the individual
In the table under proposed 21H(b), one permitted purpose (Item 5) is for the purpose
of ‘assisting an individual to avoid defaulting on his/her obligations’. We have concerns
about the ability of a CP to obtain ongoing access to a customer’s credit report under
this provision. It is unclear how this might be used by a CP. If it is to allow a CP to
reduce a credit limit then it should be limited to that. If this provision is unchanged,
there is a need to have additional audit processes to monitor specifically how this
information is used.
We have concerns that in a similar way to “internal management purposes” this could
be used quite broadly. For example this could include making an offer to refinance or
even to offer additional finance. We have concerns about how broader uses could be
effectively monitored, but this use should be restricted to reducing a credit limit or
refusing any extension of further credit.
Submission: The purposes of “assisting an individual to avoid defaulting on his/her
obligations” should be defined to either deciding to reduce a credit limit or refuse any
extension of further credit.
Disclosures between credit providers
In Proposed Section 21J(1)(a) – ‘a’ particular purpose is too loose/permissive, as it
could be read, in conjunction with (b) as ‘any’ particular purpose to which the
individual has consented. Given the common practice of requiring consent as a
condition of financial transactions, this opens the door for disclosures to other credit
providers which are wholly unrelated to either the particular transaction the individual
has entered or the limited exchange of credit reporting information allowed under this
Submission: The Bill should be amended to close the potential loophole created by the
wording of proposed s21J(1)(a)
Proposed s21J(2)(a)(i) appears to mean that no consent is required for credit
assessment – we submit that the implications of this are very significant and need to be
explored by the Committee. Under the current Act (Part IIIA), consent is required. We
have been critical of this as consent is effectively mandatory as a condition of a loan
application – it is not freely given and cannot be revoked. In such circumstances we
have argued for ‘notice and acknowledgement’ in place of consent, as a more accurate
reflection of what is actually happening. If the effect of proposed s21J(2)(a)(i) is to
remove the requirement for written consent then we submit that it needs to substitute
an express requirement for notice and acknowledgement .
Submission: The Committee should seek clarification of the effect of proposed
s21J(2)(a)(i). If the effect is to remove the requirement for written consent for credit
assessment then an express requirement for notice and acknowledgement should be
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.34 July 2012
In proposed s21K(3)&(4), the guarantor consent requirement seems less onerous than
for borrower i.e. it need not be in writing) – we would expect it to be the same or
Submission: The Committee should seek an explanation of this provision and failing a
satisfactory response, the guarantor consent requirements should be the same as that of
We don’t understand proposed s21M(2)(d)(ii) , as it seems to suggest that a CP might
not hold payment information relating to an overdue payment to the CP, which seems
Submission: The Committee should ask for a clarification of this matter
In relation to proposed s21V(1)(b), in practice almost all consumers who complain to
CPs do so because of information that has been reported to a CRB by a credit provider,
so it shouldn’t be necessary for the CP to “hold at least one type of personal
information” – and it would be unfair if any consumer had to show that the CP did. The
key issue here is that the CP has reported the information to the CRB.
Submission: Clause s21V(1)(b) should include the additional words (in CAPS here) “ the
provider holds OR HAS REPORTED TO A CRB at least one kind of the personal
information referred to in paragraph (a).”
Submission: In Section 21W(3)(c)(i), the notice of correction should expressly include the
EDR scheme contact details.
Division 4 – Affected Information recipients
There appear to be no limits placed on debt collectors, who are permitted to receive
credit eligibility information from credit providers (under proposed s21M), but do not
fall within the definition of ‘affected information recipient’ in s6(1) to which the limits
in this Division apply. The use of credit reporting information by debt collectors has
been a major issue under Part IIIA and we submit that strict controls are required.
Submission: Secondary use and disclosure limits need to be placed on debt collectors,
preferably by including them within the definition of ‘affected information recipient’ and if
necessary with specific provisions within Division 4 Subdivision B
Division 5 – Complaints
In relation to proposed s23B(5), we question what the effect would be if an EDR scheme
has different rules/time periods under its existing constitution and operational
Submission: The Committee should seek an explanation of what is expected to happen if a
recognised EDR scheme has different rules/time periods in its constitution and operating
procedures from those in this proposed section.
Other credit reporting matters
Submission: There should be a requirement that if a CP goes into liquidation, or otherwise
ceases to be a member of a recognized EDR scheme, all listings made by that CP on a CRB
database should be removed. It is not acceptable for listings to remain without a
mechanism for challenge.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.35 July 2012
5 Codes: Low priority, useful additional protection
Division 2 – Registered APP Codes
The existing general Code provisions in the Act – introduced with the Private Sector
Amendments in 2000 – have manifestly failed. There have only been four Codes
registered since 2000, and two of those have subsequently been withdrawn and deregistered.
The ALRC recommended that outside the credit reporting jurisdiction, Codes should
only provide guidance or standards on the default Principles (ALRC Rec 48-1). The
government proposes that in addition Codes may also introduce additional binding
obligations, provided they deal only with information privacy.
The Bill does also now make it clear that Codes may not derogate from the APPs, and
removes the unhelpful, and largely unused, option of a separate Code Adjudicator.
Codes may deal with internal complaint processes but cannot tamper with the external
complaint provisions of the Act.
The Bill does also introduce two new options for Code development – at the request of
the Commissioner, and by the Commissioner. These options potentially allow the
Commissioner to initiate a process for imposing additional binding information privacy
obligations on APP entities, where this is justified. We see this as a useful addition to
the toolkit of privacy protection, particularly as Codes can apply, for the first time, to
Commonwealth agencies. The value of the Commissioner initiated Code provisions will
of course only be realised if the Commissioner has both the will and the resources to
utilize them.
Submission: The inclusion of a revised provision for binding Codes applying to APP
entities will be a useful addition to the Act, and the changes from the existing Part IIIAA
remove most of the weaknesses of the current Code provisions, while strengthening them
Section 26B includes a very confusing relationship between commencement and dual
registration – on Commissioner’s Code Register and on Register of Legislative
Instruments. APP Codes are not legislative instruments until/unless registered (on both
Submission: The Committee should seek clarification of the relationship between the two
‘registrations’ required for Codes and the implications for commencement
There is one questionable provision in Section 26C – ss (2)(b) allows Codes to cover
acts and practices exempt under s7B(1),(2) or (3). Section 7B(1) is individuals (2) is
Commonwealth contracted service providers, (3) is employee records. Given that these
inclusions can only be voluntary (the Commissioner can’t impose these ‘extras’) only (3)
makes sense – individuals or contractors are hardly likely to volunteer to be subject to
the Act. It is disappointing that the Bill fails to provide for voluntary inclusion of a range
of other exempt matters by organizations, and for any such matters by agencies.
Submission: The Bill should be amended to allow Code developers to voluntarily include
any exempt matter.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.36 July 2012
The procedural provisions about the development, approval, registration etc of APP
Codes are largely modelled on the existing processes in Part IIIAA. While these appear
generally acceptable, we note that there have been some problems in practice with the
operation of Part IIIA, particularly in relation to adequate notice of and consultation on
code development, variation and revocation. We reserve judgement on whether the
procedural aspects of the Code provisions applying to APP Codes in the proposed
Divisions 2 & 4 of Part IIIB will work well in practice.
Division 3 – Registered Credit Reporting (CR) Code
In the section of this submission on the new credit reporting provisions (replacement
Part IIIA) we have already stated our concern about significant matters being left both
to Regulations and to the proposed CR Code. We listed some matters which we have
identified as being left for the CR Code, and recommended that the Committee seek a
comprehensive list, and better justification for these matters not being addressed in the
Bill itself.
We welcome the provision that there can only be a single CR Code, and confirmation
that the CR Code will not be able to derogate from the provisions of Part IIIA, rather
only ‘set out how one or more of the credit reporting provisions are to be applied or
complied with’ (EM p4). The procedural provisions about the development, approval,
registration etc of the CR Code are modelled on those applying also to APP Codes, and to
a largely also on the existing processes in Part IIIAA. While these appear generally
acceptable, we note that there have been some problems in practice with the operation
of Part IIIA, particularly in relation to adequate notice of and consultation on code
development, variation and revocation.
We are aware that the Credit Reporting Industry, through its representative body ARCA,
has already embarked on a code development process in anticipation of the
amendments, and have been involved in consultations. This process may need to be
adjusted in light of the detailed provisions which have only just been made public. We
reserve judgement on whether the CR Code provisions in the proposed Division 3 of
Part IIIB will work well in practice.
Item 9 in Schedule 3 is a consequential amendment that confirms that the term ‘credit
provider’ has a different meaning – including mortgage insurers and trade insurers – in
some parts of the Act (including Pt IIIB – Codes) but not in the main credit reporting
Part IIIA (where insurers are expressly dealt with differently). It has been and will
continue to be very unhelpful and confusing to have two different definitions of CP in
different contexts.
Submission: The term ‘credit provider’ should not have two different meanings in
different, but related parts of the same Act
Division 4 – General Code Matters
Proposed s26U (4) allows the Commissioner to charge fees for copies or extracts of
Codes Registers. This is wholly unacceptable – Codes will form part of privacy law, and
must remain both readily accessible and free. S26U(3) requires publication on the
Commissioner’s website but it is essential that Codes also be available to individuals
without online access.
APF submission on Privacy Amdt Bill 2012 p.37 July 2012
Submission: The Commissioner should be required to make access to registered Codes
easy and free, including reasonable off-line access.

It is very disappointing that the Government has taken no proactive steps on the issue of a statutory right to privacy.  Even to the point of saying it opposes the concept.


Leave a Reply