Further review of the Privacy Act

The former government sought significant reforms to the Privacy Act 1988 (the Act)  with the Privacy Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 (the Bill) creating a binding Online Privacy code (the Code) for social media services, data brokers and other large online platforms operating in Australia.

The reforms were launched in December 2019 and received hundreds of submissions and discussion papers. In the Bill, the online platforms subject to the Code will be required to:-

  • Take all reasonable steps to verify their users’ age, and give primary consideration to the best interests of the child when handling children’s personal information;
  • Obtain parental consent for users under the age of 16 years.

The Bill recommends tougher penalties and enforcement powers to allow Australian Privacy Regulator, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, to resolve matters effectively and efficiently.

The implications of the Bill was for privacy matters to be treated more carefully and transparently by online platforms such as major media organisations.

However, instead of adopting the significant recommendations to reform the Act, the former government has now launched another review into the Act. The new review seeks to also look at how people’s personal information is being used in ways that are highly invasive and in manners which they have not consented to, making it unfair.

The government is now wanting to introduce a new Bill to amend the Act to also make sure that future Commissioner appointment to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will be made using a merit-based and transparent process that complied with international human rights standards. Thus, the next Commissioner therefore could not be appointed directly and must go through an advertised, merits based process to obtain the position.

This, as privacy law is important for the protection of personal information that is used to unlawfully discriminate. The laws need to not just protect the right to privacy, but the right to not be discriminated against.

The review has been going on for many years now and the final report is expected by the end of the year.

Should you have any queries regarding your privacy and any potential breaches or discrimination relating to your personal information, please contact Danielle Snell and Robert McGirr of Elit Lawyers on (03) 9098 8646.

 

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