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Wednesday 13 March was an important milestone for privacy law reform: It marked exactly 12 months until the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012becomes law. This law introduces major reforms to the Privacy Act 1988.

It is very important that private sector organisations and government agencies subject to the Privacy Act begin to prepare for the introduction of the 13 new Australian Privacy Principles, changes to credit reporting and enhanced powers for the commissioner. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has commenced releasing guidance materials in a range of  different areas to assist Australian government agencies and private-sector organisations in understanding the changes that will occur and the OAIC’s regulatory position in relation to the changes. Some of these materials will be subject to public consultation, and iappANZ members are encouraged to contribute.

New Consultation on Guidelines for Developing Codes

The OAIC has released draft guidelines for developing codesfor public consultation.

One of the key changes to the Privacy Act is in relation to privacy codes of practice. The Privacy Act allows for the development and registration of binding privacy codes that allow agencies and organisations to state how one or more of the new Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) are to be applied or complied with and various other privacy related matters. There will also be a binding credit reporting code—called the CR code—which sets out how the credit reporting requirements will be applied.

Codes do not replace the relevant provisions of the act but operate in addition and cannot lessen the privacy rights of an individual provided for in the Privacy Act.

The guidelines will assist agencies and organisations to decide whether it is appropriate to develop a code and, if so, how to develop one. The guidelines will also assist agencies and organisations understand the commissioner’s expectations in relation to privacy code content, the governance arrangements to support a code and what will be required for registration, ongoing monitoring and reporting.

As codes and the new APPs operate in tandem, it may be more efficient for agencies and organisations who believe a code would be beneficial in their industry sector to undertake the code development at the same time as they prepare for the introduction of the APPs to save changing internal practices twice. Code development can start now and they can be registered for commencement with the other Privacy Act changes on 12 March 2014. The development of the CR code by the Australasian Retail Credit Association is already occurring.

The OAIC invites all those with an interest in privacy codes to consider the draft guidelines and provide any comments by 12 April 2013. The final version will be released as soon as possible after submissions are considered. More information on the privacy changes are available on the OAIC website.

-- IAPP Staff


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