This week is Privacy Awareness Week, an initiative of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities Forum which is held every year to promote awareness of privacy issues and the importance of the protection of personal information. Fittingly, this year, the focus of Privacy Awareness Week is privacy law reform.

It is an opportune time for us to launch our 'Are You Ready?' series of legal updates to assist you in understanding the changes to be introduced by the reforms to privacy laws. Throughout the year, we will keep you updated with developments on major reforms with a focus on the changes that will affect businesses.

The reforms will affect organisations that are currently subject to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). Generally, these are businesses with an annual turnover of more than $3 million, health service providers or businesses which trade in personal information.

The key changes include:

  • creation of the Australian Privacy Principles
  • introduction of comprehensive credit reporting
  • introduction of new provisions on privacy codes and the credit reporting code
  • enhanced powers of the Information Commissioner.

We will look at the impact of these changes in more detail in future editions of 'Are You Ready?' In the meantime, businesses should start preparing for the reforms by reviewing:

  • privacy policies and information collection notices
  • any outsourcing arrangements that might be in place, particularly if these involve the disclosure of personal information outside Australia
  • direct marketing practices, including the availability of 'opt out' mechanisms.

Further information can be found on the website of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner here.