The 2016 Census was meant to be to a seminal moment in
our history. For the first time a snapshot of our society was to
However, instead of the excitement of something new, and kudos
to the government for implementing a new system said to save tax
payers around $100 million, all of the publicity related to our
concerns about Privacy. We wanted to know how the information we
had willing provided in years past was going to be used, accessed
and stored. If anything, the 2016 Census showed how much people
value their privacy and how any transaction online sets off alarm
Privacy may not be a particularly interesting topic of
conversation, but you can bet your bottom line that your customers
are concerned about their personal information and what you are
doing with it. If there is even a perception that you will not
respect their privacy, they will vote with their feet.
Personal information is any detail about a person that allows
that person to be identified – their name, address, date of
birth, bank account details, medical records, photographs and even
information about their shopping habits and where they work may be
included. Much of this information is routinely collected by
businesses. If your business collects personal information there
are strict requirements about how you use it and store it. If you
misuse this material, you are likely to lose customers and business
partners. You may also risk a fine.
When you are collecting information, you should state what the
Consider if you actually need the information – "because
it might be useful later on" is not a good enough reason to
customers that you respect their privacy. If you collect any type
of financial information from customers they will expect it to
remain private, in fact they are entitled to have it protected from
Next, consider how you store personal information. Have
sophisticated passwords for your server, a firewall and don't
leave physical copies of information physically lying around where
others can see it. You need a process in place to manage the
information. If you have staff members, you will need to let them
know about the process. The process is an important tool to protect
your business from fines, complaints and a loss of customers so it
is worth getting the process right from the start.
If you will share the information with a third party, you must
A business with an annual turnover of more than $3,000,000.00
must comply with the Privacy Act. If your business has less
turnover, it is still a good idea to demonstrate to your customers
that you value their personal information, it's great PR. If
your business provides health services you must comply with the
Privacy Act and the Heath Records Information Act, irrespective of
your annual turnover. If you have any contracts or funding from
government, you are likely to have to comply with any privacy
polices of that agency as part of your agreement.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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In this Alert, we discuss the implications that changes to privacy law will have on agencies and organisations.
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