Changes to Privacy Act 1988 provide better data security to Australians
Changes to the 1988 Privacy Act go into effect today, 12 March. The Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, had been receiving an increasing number of complaints regarding personal data security and the access businesses have to Australians’ information. The new reforms aim to provide better transparency among corporations and Australian federal government agencies about how personal information is handled.
The changes should also give the Australian population and the Privacy Commission greater power in regards to their personal information in the way of increasing access and providing details into how it is used. This is largely in the favour of the general population, and could change how personal data is handled in the future. The power shift to consumers could open the gateway for people to sell their own information, instead of losing it for free.
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The following reforms are included in the bid to return the power of personal information and data security back to the general population:
- Companies must provide an easy opt-out mechanism for people who are targeted by direct marketing
- Businesses must provide information about how personal details were accessed
- A person’s personal credit data will be more readily available to them
- Credit files on minors are not allowed to be held by a company or business
These changes will apply to all private sector companies that earn more than $3 million annually, and to all government agencies; private medical practitioners and other organisations in the medical field have different requirements.
A large majority of companies do not feel they are ready for the new privacy laws, but do not see it as a problem. Although fines reaching $1.7 million for companies and $340,000 have been threatened for those who do not take the initiative to spark the changes in their companies, many are unafraid of the fines based on the Privacy Commission’s lack of bite in previous initiatives.