Federal Review of the Privacy Act
13 February 2006 at 12:02 pm
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is to review the Privacy Act, in particular the changes since 2001– in an investigation that will take 2 years to complete.
The announcement comes more than six months after a call for a national review from the Privacy Commissioner and the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee into its effectiveness.
The review will examine existing Commonwealth, State and Territory laws and practices and will consider the needs of individuals for privacy protection in light of evolving technology.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced the review.
The ALRC will also examine current and emerging international law in the privacy area and consider community perceptions of privacy and the extent to which it should be protected by legislation.
In carrying out its inquiries, the ALRC says it will undertake widespread consultation with the public and key stakeholders.
The ALRC review of the Privacy Act is to be completed by 31 March 2008.
Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, welcomed the review. Curtis provided a report on the Privacy Act in 2005 describing it as the first major examination of the private sector provisions in the Privacy Act since they commenced in December 2001.
Many individual Not for Profit organisations contributed to the privacy Commissioners report as well as the Fundraising Institute –Australia.
In part the FIA submission to the Privacy Commissioner (OFPC) on ways in which community confidence could be enhanced include:
– OFPC to raise awareness and knowledge among the community of privacy
regulations and practice through strategic marketing undertaken by your office
– OFPC to authorise use of a logo signifying organisational commitment to good practice in accordance with the Act, the NPPs and agreed standards of practice
– OFPC to encourage organisations to develop and promote standards of practice,
through industry codes as models for self-regulation, including establishing and
promoting formal complaints mechanisms in their organisation
– OFPC to investigate unresolved complaints and alleged breaches of the code through conciliation and determination
– OFPC to enhance its collection of data (such as demographic information) relating to complaints to determine if patterns exist in areas of complaint
– OFPC to issue sanctions for non-compliance such as naming and shaming.
The Privacy Commissioner says that of the 136 submissions received, many organisations and consumer representatives agreed that to improve the privacy of all Australians it is important to ensure a nationally consistent privacy scheme.
Curtis says that during the review, it became apparent that while the private sector provisions work well, it may be appropriate for the Government to undertake a wider review of privacy for Australians in the 21st century.
ALRC President Professor David Weisbrot says a review of privacy laws and practices is crucial at this time, given the rapid technological advances in information, communication, storage and surveillance since privacy legislation was first developed in the 1980s.
He says there are now real issues as to how securely information is stored, how it is used, and who has access to it.
He says the ALRC has been asked to review the extent to which undue intrusion into or interference with privacy arises in Australia, and how best to protect the privacy of Australians.
ALRC Commissioner, Associate Professor Les McCrimmon—who will lead the privacy inquiry—said one of the main challenges will be to provide a legal framework that provides adequate protection for personal privacy, while minimising the regulatory burden on business and other organisations.
The ALRC says there will be a strong focus on community input. It plans to produce at least two consultation papers, and will seek input from anyone with an interest in privacy, before providing its final report to the Federal Government.
To register an interest in the privacy inquiry, or for further information – including the full terms of reference – go to the ALRC web site: www.alrc.gov.au.