Acting late on privacy change

DESPITE a long-running awareness campaign, many businesses are still not prepared for the Privacy Act amendments that will become law tomorrow.

While the major institutions are up to date with the new requirements, many small to medium companies are only just finalising their privacy policies and statements. Some have even opted to leave the task until after the festive season, according to anecdotal evidence from Deacons partner Mark Fitzgerald.

“There are significant organisations and institutions that are just starting to get their policies together and I believe there will be quite a bit to do in privacy over the next six months,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

Although transitional provisions in the Act exclude information collected before December 21 2001 from the National Privacy Principles relating to collection, use and disclosure, anonymity and sensitive information, organisations must still comply with the six other principles.

These relate to data quality, data security, openness, access and correction, identifiers and transborder data flows.

“Organisations do have a little bit of time up their sleeves but then, under NPP 5, an organisation caught by the new privacy regime will need to have a privacy policy available for people if asked to provide one” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“So if someone rings up a company on Christmas Eve and asks for the company’s privacy policy, or for access to their personal information, that company has to provide a policy or give access or it could be in breach of the Act.”

The Privacy Act will affect health service providers that hold records, businesses that deal in the collection and dissemination of information, Commonwealth contracted service providers, and businesses with a turnover of more than $3 million.

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