The OAIC’s online privacy bill is set to change the rules in Australia | Media Pyro


If you’ve felt like hitting the invisible skip button every time you’re asked for your personal information online, you’re not alone.

According to Deloitte’s 2021 Australian Privacy Index, 79% of consumers would like to exercise their right to deletion while on a brand’s website. This means that they can require the brand to delete any personal data it has stored. 89% of users also believe that the Privacy Act should include provisions to protect the information they disclose online.

Despite the overwhelming advantage, only 5% of Australian brands allow consumers to exercise this right.

The Australian government has decided to address this issue by proposing the Internet Privacy (OP) Bill, which is expected to be passed in the near future.

Online privacy has become a key concern for governments as most brands increasingly rely on digital advertising and marketing. Most digital advertising platforms target users based on their behavior and preferences, which are collected from websites using cookies.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) ​​has been considering changes to its old privacy law to include provisions that ensure privacy online, particularly on social media. In October 2021, the Government announced the Online Privacy Bill (OP Bill). It also invited and received input from the general public on the project for consideration. The bill is scheduled to be introduced to parliament later this year.

The bill applies to Australian and non-Australian organizations that collect citizens’ data, as well as social media organizations, data brokers and any large online platform that collects personal data and has more than 2,500,000 Australian end users in the past or current year.

Proposed key changes

There are three notable changes that the OP’s bill proposes to make to the existing Privacy Act:

  • Added the OP Code, which regulates how social networks and other online platforms collect and use consumers’ personal data. The OP code will apply to private organizations covered by the Privacy Act. The introduction of the code means that in the future, if an individual instructs an organization not to disclose or use their data, the organization must comply. There were no hard and fast rules that required them to do this before the OP’s code.
  • Expanding the OAIC’s powers to enforce compliance with the OP code and the fines that can be imposed in the event of non-compliance.
  • Stating that all foreign entities doing business in Australia will also have to comply with the new OP code regardless of whether they have collected personal consumer information directly from an Australian source or not.

In addition, the bill also significantly increased penalties for organizations for improper use of collected personal data. From the existing maximum amount of $2.1 million, the charge was increased to $10 million or three times the value of the profits derived from the misuse of the data, whichever is higher, as determined by the court. If the court cannot determine the amount of benefits received by the company due to misuse of data, a third option is to charge 10% of the company’s annual turnover.

Adaptation to proposed changes

The OAIC has stopped gathering advice on the draft for consideration in December 2021 and is set to introduce the bill to Parliament in the coming months. A total of 191 answers, of which 105 were published on the official website.

Information is the new currency and Australia’s move to improve existing privacy laws in line with the current digital age is welcome. This is not only an ethical requirement, but also an urgent necessity.

Just as every consumer has control over their money and the right to exchange it for any product or service of their choice, they should also have the right to control how brands use their information and whether it should be used in the first place.

This can often be a challenge for most corporations, as it can be difficult to keep track of the vast amount of sensitive employee information that is generated each year. Here are some steps organizations can take to prepare for the inevitable changes:

  • Conduct company-wide training programs to ensure all employees exercise caution and are aware of best practices to follow,
  • Collect and store data in secure locations,
  • Constantly monitor files and folders containing sensitive data as well
  • Install systems to detect changes to critical data or tampering with files.

Australians want data security, and changes to the OAIC’s online privacy bill are likely to be a crucial step towards that outcome. Organizational leaders must start early on the path to absolute data security by equipping corporate systems with security measures that ensure online privacy for all stakeholders without compromising their right to erasure.


The Optus hack was criminal, not government sponsored


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