Australian Privacy Commissioner won’t be taking 'softly, softly approach' with privacy reforms

Timothy Pilgrim will be able to seek civil penalties of up to $1.7 million for companies if there is a serious breach of privacy

Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has warned enterprises and government agencies that he won’t be taking a “softly, softly approach” to privacy investigations when his new powers come into effect on 12 March 2014.

Under the <i>Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012</i> which was passed by Parliament in November 2012, Pilgrim will be able to seek civil penalties of up to $340,000 for individuals or up to $1.7 million for companies in the case of a serious breach of privacy.

Speaking at the iaapANZ Privacy Summit in Sydney this week, Pilgrim said he had been asked by people if he will take a cautious approach after implementation of the privacy reforms.

“I have never been known to be subtle so the answer to that question is probably no,” Pilgrim said.

“Before people get too excited about the bluntness of that response, remember that I said I would always start by trying to resolve matters through conciliation. But please do not interpret conciliation to mean softly, softly.”

He added that audits of Australian government agencies, tax file number recipients, credit reporting agencies and credit providers will be extended to include private sector companies.

These audits will determine if companies are handling personal information in accordance with the new Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).

“There has been a power in the current [Privacy] Act to allow me to audit a private sector organisation by invitation. However, it seems organisations have been too shy to extend such an invitation up to now,” Pilgrim said. “So from 12 March I’ll be able to invite myself in.”

He warned that these assessments may be conducted at “any time”, whether the organisation has had a previous privacy breach or not.

“Central to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) enforcement activity is an enforcement pyramid approach to regulation,” Pilgrim said.

For example, in the case of individual complaints the OAIC would expect that a person would try to resolve the issue with the organisation first.

“If a matter is accepted by us, we will always attempt to resolve issues through mutual agreement, conciliation,” he said.

“However, in the event that this is not effective, we will not hesitate in using our other tools to resolve a matter, including determinations, enforceable undertakings or in the case of serious or repeated breaches, civil penalties.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Why are we dubious about deep learning?

The prospect of deep learning gives those of us in the industry something to get really excited about, and something to be nervous about, at the same time.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Why you can’t afford to fail at CX in 2019

In 1976 Apple launched. The business would go on to change the game, setting the bar for customer experience (CX). Seamless customer experience and intuitive designs gave customers exactly what they wanted, making other service experiences pale in comparison.

Damian Kernahan

Founder and CEO, Proto Partners

Natural born leaders

Many business and marketing managers progressing to leadership positions face evolving their focus from operational matters to strategic decision making and planning.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Thanks for writing about chatbots. Definitely bots have the exciting future when it comes to customer engagement, transactional and conve...

Sanket Nair

7 businesses successfully implementing chatbots

Read more

Interesting article but what about the employees? There needs to be access to quick cash for everyone involved lest we have yet another '...

Joel Pencer

Suncorp outlines customer investments, digitisation as key to business improvement

Read more

Just printed out this Brad Howarth screed to read tomorrow. I need a good laugh once in a while. Or maybe shed some manly-man tears at th...

Larry A Singleton

What a diversity agenda has done for Kellogg's staff and innovation engagement

Read more

Morons. PC Nazis infiltrating and subverting every level in our lives.These scum have destroyed our education system.Read FrontPage Magaz...

Larry A Singleton

What a diversity agenda has done for Kellogg's staff and innovation engagement

Read more

It is an accepted fact that in the present times the mass makes use of digital marketing more often and are more and more enlightened wit...

Digital Marketing Course in Ja

Why RMIT is partnering with Adobe for digital marketing learning

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in