Privacy Act will make organisations 'more transparent': State privacy commissioners

NSW, Victoria and Queensland privacy commissioners have welcomed the federal Privacy Act changes

State privacy commissioners in Australia have backed the federal government’s Privacy Act changes, saying that the Act will encourage organisations to be transparent about their management of people’s information.

According to New South Wales Privacy Commissioner Doctor Elizabeth Coombs, the changes will further help to protect the privacy rights of individuals.

“Individuals now have more rights to find out what information is being held about them, and where it is being held,” she said in a statement.

Coombs added that the Privacy Act changes do not affect NSW privacy legislation which is administered by the state's Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“All NSW public sector agencies, health service providers and certain businesses holding health information must comply with the NSW Privacy Principles when collecting and managing personal information.”

Acting Victorian Privacy Commissioner David Watts said privacy laws give people the “right to know” why an organisation is asking for their information and what they are going to do with it.

“These rights have been strengthened for organisations bound by the federal laws. This [Act] benefits both consumers and the organisations themselves who can have a better relationship with their customers," he said.

Watts added that the federal changes do not affect Victoria’s privacy legislation which is administered by himself and the Health Services Commissioner.

This is because personal information collected and used by the Victorian public sector is covered by the Victorian Information Privacy Act while health information is covered by the Victorian Health Records Act.

Queensland acting privacy commissioner Clare Smith said the amendments to the Privacy Act will not affect the state’s Information Privacy Act 2009. However, Queensland’s Act contains Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) and National Privacy Principles (NPPs).

This means Queensland government agencies that are currently bound by the Information Privacy Act will still have to comply with the IPPs or NPPs.

South Australian government agencies need to comply with a set of Information Privacy Principles. The state also has a privacy committee.

In Western Australia, some privacy principles are included in the Freedom of Information Act 1992.

The Tasmanian Ombudsman may investigate privacy complaints in relation to the state’s Personal Information and Protection Act 2004.

The federal Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) looks after privacy for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government.

The OAIC’s Privacy Act has been modified for the ACT’sGovernment Service (Consequential Provisions) Act 1994 and applies the Information Privacy Principles to ACT government agencies.

The Northern Territory Information Commissioner has been contacted for comment by Computerworld Australia.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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