Review of the Privacy Act 1988

On 12 December 2019, the Attorney-General announced that the Australian Government would conduct a review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (the Privacy Act).

The review forms part of the Government’s response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platforms Inquiry.

The review is to examine whether the scope and enforcement mechanisms in the Privacy Act remain fit for purpose and, if needed, consider options for reform. See the terms of reference for more details.

The review provides the opportunity for members of the public to make submissions following the release of an issues paper and, subsequently, a discussion paper. Submissions in response to the issues paper have now closed, and the Attorney-General’s Department is currently considering those submissions.

Queensland Law Society in consultation with its Privacy and Data Law Committee provided a submission in response to the issues paper. In its submission, QLS raised a number of points for consideration by the department, including:

  • The Australian Privacy Principles (APP) approach has the benefit of simplicity and adaptability and QLS recommended against moving away from principle-based legislation.
  • Current exemptions, including the small business exemption, employee record and political parties exemption, do not strike an appropriate balance between protecting individuals and avoiding unnecessary compliance costs.
  • Consideration should be given to amendments which allow individuals to have greater access to, and the ability to correct, personal information which is collected and used.
  • Further clarity around aspects of the Privacy Act, including the term ‘personally identifiable information’ and elements of the notifiable data breach scheme, could improve the operation of the Act.
  • The review should consider the introduction of a statutory tort for invasion of privacy.

Read the full QLS submission.

A discussion paper will be released sometime this year, seeking more specific feedback on preliminary outcomes, including possible options for reform.

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