Privacy laws in Australia were updated in 2014 with the introduction of the Australian Privacy Principles, a new set of privacy principles affecting the handling of personal information.
The aim of the principles is to bring Australia’s privacy laws (first introduced in 2001) in line with current technology trends and to provide more transparency around the capture and use of personal information.
The principles apply to organisations and Government agencies and fines of up to $1.7 million may apply for non-compliance.
The principles make it more difficult for businesses to collect information about consumers without their knowledge and changes how businesses handle, use, and store personal information and engage in direct marketing.
Which businesses are affected by the privacy laws?
If you generate more than $3 million in annual turnover and you handle personal information your business is affected. If you generate less than $3 million but your business is “trading in personal information” you may also be affected by the changes in the law.
What does “trading in personal information” mean?
Personal information is information that identifies, or could reasonably identify, an individual. This includes names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details.
Trading in personal information includes collecting or providing personal information to a third party for a benefit, service or advantage. If you collect personal information and then provide it to a business to manage your direct marketing, you may be trading in personal information.
What are the key reforms?
The key reforms affecting small businesses, particularly in the online space, are that:
- you must have procedures and systems in place to ensure you comply with the new laws.
Companies face fines of up to $1.7 million for serious or repeated breaches of the Privacy Act. Sole traders and entities that are not companies face fines of up to $340,000.
How do I ensure my business complies?
You should conduct a review of your business and identify how you deal with personal information. The following elements need to be addressed:
When you collect personal information, inform individuals of your organisation’s name, contact details, the purpose of collection and to whom it will be disclosed.
- What personal information you collect.
- How you collect the personal information.
- The purposes for which you use and disclose it.
- If you provide personal information to parties overseas you need to disclose that and, if practicable, specify the countries where those parties are located.
- Setting out how you secure and store personal information.
Establish a system to ensure that:
- Staff who handle personal information comply with the new privacy laws.
- Individuals can access their personal information and correct out of date or incorrect information.
- You have a process to deal with complaints about your compliance with the laws.
- Enables recipients of direct marketing material to unsubscribe.