Key Points:

New privacy management framework sets out the Privacy Commissioner's expectations of businesses and public sector agencies in implementing a culture of privacy within their organisations.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has launched a new Privacy Management Framework to assist private and federal public sector entities to meet their ongoing privacy compliance obligations and embed a culture that respects privacy.

Since the introduction of the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) in March 2014, private and federal public sector entities must take reasonable steps to implement practices, procedures and systems that will ensure they comply with the APPs.  No such requirement existed under the former National Privacy Principles.

The Privacy Management Framework sets out four steps which the OAIC expects entities to take in order to comply with their ongoing privacy compliance obligations: embedestablish,evaluate and enhance

It also sets out commitments to be implemented within each step.  Not all of the commitments will be appropriate for all entities.  Which commitments an entity should implement for each step depends on its particular circumstances, including its size, resources and business model. 

Step 1: EMBED a culture of privacy that enables compliance

Entities are expected to ensure their leadership and governance arrangements create a culture of privacy that values personal information.  The commitments for Step 1 include:

  • appoint key roles and responsibilities for privacy management, including a senior staff member with overall accountability for privacy and a key privacy officer who is responsible for handling internal and external privacy enquiries, complaints and access and correction requests;
  • adopt a "privacy by design" approach;
  • allocate resources to develop and implement a privacy management plan which outlines how you will monitor the steps outlined in the Privacy Management Framework and meet your objectives for managing privacy;
  • implement reporting mechanisms that ensure senior management are routinely informed about privacy issues; and
  • understand your privacy obligations and the role of the OAIC

Step 2: ESTABLISH robust and effective privacy practices, procedures and systems

Entities are expected to develop and implement robust and effective privacy practices, procedures and systems.  The commitments for Step 2 include:

  • keep information about your personal information holdings up to date;
  • develop and maintain processes to ensure personal information is handled in accordance with privacy obligations;
  • promote privacy awareness by integrating privacy into staff training programs;
  • develop and implement a clearly expressed and up to date privacy policy, and ensure privacy notices are up to date and consistent with the privacy policy;
  • implement risk management processes to identify, assess and manage privacy risks across the business, including security risks;
  • undertake privacy impact assessments;
  • establish processes for receiving and responding to privacy enquiries and complaints;
  • establish processes to allows individuals to promptly and easily access and correct their personal information; and
  • develop a data breach response plan.

Step 3: EVALUATE privacy practices, procedures and systems to ensure continued effectiveness

Entities are expected to systematically examine the effectiveness and appropriateness of their privacy practices, procedures and systems to ensure continued effectiveness.  The commitments for Step 3 include:

  • monitor and review privacy processes regularly, including assessing the adequacy and currency of your privacy policy and privacy notices to ensure they are up to date and being adhered to;
  • document compliance with privacy obligations, including keeping records on privacy process reviews, breaches and complaints
  • review implementation of the Privacy Management Framework and measure your performance against the privacy management plan developed under Step 1; and
  • create channels for both staff and customers to provide feedback on your privacy processes.

Step 4: ENHANCE your response to privacy issues

Entities are expected to continually improve their privacy processes to ensure they are responsive to new privacy issues.  To do this, entities are expected to be proactive, forward thinking and to anticipate future challenges.  The commitments for Step 4 include:

  • use evaluation results under Step 3 to make changes to practices, procedures and systems that improve your privacy processes;
  • consider an external assessed to identify areas for improvement;
  • consider adopting privacy practices that go beyond the requirements of the APPs;
  • keep informed of issues and developments in privacy law;
  • monitor and address new security risks and threats; and
  • examine and address the privacy implications, risks and benefits of new technologies.

How will the Privacy Management Framework affect you?

The Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has said that he expects all entities bound by the APPs to implement the Privacy Management Framework so that they are in the best position to address privacy issues and meet their obligations under the APPs.  In a speech in February this year he said "Your organisation must commit (from the top down) to grow a robust privacy culture of continual improvement. And, should I have to ‘visit’ an organisation as a result of a privacy incident, I will be focusing equally on assessing the privacy culture of that organisation, from the top down, as much as I will on process and technology solutions." 

Therefore, while the new Privacy Management Framework is not legally binding, private and federal public sector entities should consider it carefully.