On 30 October 2020, the Attorney-General's Department released its terms of reference and timeline for a review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act), along with an Issues Paper here to seek public responses to 68 questions about the legislation. Submissions are due by 29 November 2020.

This review takes account of and builds upon the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry final report (DPI report). The DPI report considered the impact of online platforms on advertising and the media and proposed broad reform of the Privacy Act.

The government agreed to consult on the following specific reforms raised in the DPI report:

  • updating the definition of 'personal information' to capture technical data and other online identifiers (Recommendation 16(a))
  • strengthening existing notification requirements (Recommendation 16(b))
  • strengthening consent requirements and pro-consumer defaults (Recommendation 16(c))
  • introducing a direct right of action to enforce privacy obligations under the Privacy Act (Recommendation 16(e)).

Other questions raised in the review relate to various exemptions, such as the small business exemption, political parties exemption and the journalism exemption. These are relevant to Australia's position to obtain adequacy ruling from the EU. Currently, under the General Data Protection Regulation, Australia's privacy protections are not regarded as adequate and EU businesses wishing to transfer personal data to Australia need to undertake additional contractual protections.

Similarly, the employee records exemption, which has existed since 1988, was said to be a matter for industrial legislation but have never been fully resolved.

Our team has a breadth and depth of experience in all aspects of privacy and related data laws. If you think your business may be impacted by these legislative changes, either positively or negatively, we can assist you in making a submission.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.