CANBERRA 17 September 2012. 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.