Compliance will cost

FOR at least the third time in two years, information technology, accounting and legal consultants to industry “are on a roll”.

The amount of time and resources required to bring an organisation up to speed with the incoming privacy new legislation has been likened to Y2K and the GST.

Some commentators suggest it is more akin to attuning an organisation to the unfair dismissal legislation.

By anyone’s standards, the process will not cheap. Lost employee time will never be quantified. There are reports that some firms are believed to be charging $100,000 for a privacy impact study.

An audit, which the Privacy Commissioner recommends for bigger companies, is extra.

For banks it expected that the bill could run to hundreds of millions of dollars.

However, because Australia has lagged behind its trading partners in this area, we have little choice but to fall in line with the rest of the world.

Privacy legislation has existed in the European Union for more than 15 years.

At a recent seminar, Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams said of the new legislation: “It recognises the rights of consumers and provides Australian businesses with a framework which will assist them to take a leading role in the global information economy”.

“With the rise of international e-commerce, the ability to send personal details to a business in Australia and be guaranteed that the privacy regulations meet internationally accepted standards removes a major stumbling block.” Freehills special counsel Gayle Hill said.

Policy vacuum

A RECENT PricewaterhouseCoopers survey revealed that 53 per cent of organisations do not have a privacy policy.

In December last year, a Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu survey of 343 of the top 500 companies concluded that only one in 30 would pass an audit. This concurred with other surveys undertaken by law firm Freehills, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The Freehills survey found that only 18 per cent of respondents offer their website visitors options to protect their privacy, and only 12 per cent of respondents have a privacy statement accessible from their website. The “Internet Sweep” has become a regular activity of the ACCC, which held the sweep in conjunction with other agencies from 19 countries.

Tips to avoid trouble

p Include consent boxes on application forms, which give the applicant a choice of whether you may use their details for a secondary purpose, usually advertising.

p Do not collect unnecessary information, if you don’t need it.

p Individual nonymity is permissible if it is lawful and practical.

p Update the database regularly.

p Proof of data security will be required.

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