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Privacy policy evolution

BUSINESSES should view the implementation of new privacy principles as an ongoing process within their e-business operations, rather than a one-off project.

That was the message METHOD e-marketing consultant Marc Loveridge delivered to Perth business leaders at a recent privacy seminar. Mr Loveridge told the seminar e-business tools such as websites and emails were constantly changing and companies needed a system in place to ensure privacy principles were consistently adhered to.

Australian businesses have until December 21 to implement new provisions to the Federal Privacy Act.

Mr Loveridge said that, unlike printed media, which remained in the same format once published, websites and emails were constantly changing and, without a privacy process in place, there eventually would be a slip up.

“For example, if you’re running an email-based campaign, you’d normally ensure you have permission to market to these individuals. You have an unsubscribe function there and you also have a link to the privacy policy,” Mr Loveridge said.

“But in six months’ time when the issue isn’t so much in the limelight, if you haven’t got a process within you’re email campaign management, then there will be future slip ups. Privacy needs to become an integral part.”

He said Perth businesses should view the December deadline as an opportunity to improve the quality of data collected through electronic means, rather than a threat.

“Access and correction is one of the new privacy principles. It allows users to access their information online and make changes them-selves,” Mr Loveridge said.

“You’re gaining business efficiencies. It reduces the stress on your call centre because people can change the details themselves and it’s a lot more dynamic. When they change the information it is changed immediately.

“The data the organisation holds is maintained in a higher quality format and far more dynamically. That’s one example how this issue can improve you business efficiencies.”

Also speaking at the seminar was Freehills partner and head of corporate business, Tony Joyner, who urged businesses to take a practical approach and use common sense when implementing the privacy policies.

“I think when you get down to the nitty gritty, business will find they have to make judgement calls themselves about whether something is consistent with the principles or not,” Mr Joyner said.

“If they take a very, very conservative view of the principles and follow them through to the nth degree, they’ll end up swamping themselves in paperwork and principles.

“You have to be practical. For example, if you collect someone’s business card at a lunch, have you just collected personal information meaning you have to write them a letter informing them? Obviously you don’t.”

He said he was taking a wait-and-see approach as to how Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton would enforce the new provisions.

“It’s hard to make predictions at the moment, we’re just going to have to wait and see how the Commissioner tackles this,” Mr Joyner said.

“What he has said is that he wants to see businesses trying to meet the principles. My belief is he wants to see businesses appoint a privacy officer, create a privacy committee and give this issue some serious thought. Have them try and apply the principles in a practical and sensible way and create a culture to educate the staff about it.

“If businesses do all that, I don’t think he’s going to get too concerned about a technical point.

“I’m sure he’ll have bigger fish to fry.”

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