The Notifiable Data Breaches scheme (Scheme) under the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) came into force on 22 February 2018.

The Scheme applies to certain organisations and agencies with existing obligations to protect personal information under the Privacy Act. These entities are required to notify the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and affected individuals of eligible data breaches, being breaches that are likely to result in serious harm.

The OAIC has released the first quarterly report on the scheme, which provides a snapshot of data breaches received by the OAIC from Australian entities.

For more information about how the scheme operates, see our previous posts on the scheme:

The total number of data breaches reported to the OAIC under the scheme was 63. The largest proportion was from health service providers (24 per cent). The personal information that was predominantly involved in a breach was contact information, such as an individual’s name, email address or phone number (78 per cent). This was followed by health information (33 per cent), financial details such as bank account numbers (30 per cent), then identity information, such as a passport number (24 per cent).

Malicious or criminal attacks and human error, such as sending a document to the incorrect recipient, were the two largest causes of eligible data breaches (28 per cent and 32 per cent respectively). The OAIC was notified that 59 per cent of data breaches involved between one and nine individuals’ personal information and 73 per cent involved under 100 individuals’ personal information.

The report is a timely reminder of the need to be vigilant when handling personal information, especially as human error was the reason for the majority of eligible data breaches. You should check the address of a recipient before sending personal information to ensure it is being sent to the correct individual. A proper assessment of a breach is important to determine if notification is required as compliance with the scheme is mandatory. The next quarterly report will provide further insights and a more complete picture of the scheme as this report only outlines statistics for part of the quarter.

View the full report.