Pilgrim journeys on: Privacy Commissioner calls it quits

Timothy Pilgrim retires as Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner

Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim will leave his role next month.

Attorney-General Christian Porter announced that Pilgrim would retire from the role and leave the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner on 24 March.

Pilgrim has been the Australian Privacy Commissioner since 2010 and part of the OAIC since its launch in November of that year. Between 1998 and his 2010 appointment, Pilgrim was Australia’s deputy privacy commissioner.

As privacy commissioner, Pilgrim oversaw the rollout of the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) as part of 2014 changes to the Privacy Act.

During his tenure the federal government attempted to scrap the OAIC before backing down on a proposal that would have seen the creation of an Office of the Privacy Commissioner with the OAIC’s FOI review functions moved to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Pilgrim’s time at the OAIC has also seen some notable challenges to privacy, including the government’s introduction of the mandatory data retention scheme. The government is currently seeking ways to give law enforcement agencies greater access to encrypted communications services and rolling out a national facial recognition system.

Pilgrim and his office have led numerous investigations into private and public sector privacy breaches and the development of a range of privacy resources.

In September last year Pilgrim was appointed Australian Information Commissioner (and reappointed Australian Privacy Commissioner) following a period acting in the role after John McMillan’s retirement.

The commissioner’s retirement will follow this commencement later this week of Australia’s much-anticipated mandatory data breach reporting scheme. Under the scheme, an organisation that is subject to the Privacy Act will be obliged to notify the Australian Information Commissioner and affected individuals if it suffers an “eligible data breach”.

“Mr Pilgrim has effectively governed the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and has enhanced the Office's relevance in a continually evolving policy environment,” Porter said in a statement.

“On behalf of the Australian Government, I would like to thank Mr Pilgrim for his distinguished service and wish him well in his retirement.

“The Government will soon be undertaking a merit-based selection process to identify Mr Pilgrim's replacement.”

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Tags governmentprivacyprivacy commissionerTimothy PilgrimOffice of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)

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