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Business has 12 months to develop privacy codes.

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22 December 2000


Businesses have one year to develop their own privacy codes or refine their practices to cover the collection, use, storage and disclosure of people’s personal information, after the Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 received royal assent yesterday.

The legislation establishes a light touch regulatory framework for the protection of personal information held by private sector organisations. For the first time, Australians can have greater confidence that personal information that they provide to the private sector will be protected from misuse.

The new law provides benchmarks for the handling of personal information, called the National Privacy Principles. It also allows businesses to develop their own privacy codes that will operate in place of the legislative standards, once approved by the Privacy Commissioner.

The legislation comes into effect on 22 December 2001, allowing time for private sector organisations to comply with the new laws. It also allows time for organisations or industry bodies to develop privacy codes or to review existing self-regulatory codes to submit to the Privacy Commissioner for approval. The Privacy Commissioner can consider the suitability of proposed codes before the legislation commences so that codes can be ready to take effect from that date.

The legislation sets out all the matters that the Privacy Commissioner must take into account in deciding whether or not to approve a code. Organisations or industry bodies planning to develop a code or to revise an existing industry code must take these matters into account when

developing or revising a code. A privately developed code must incorporate all the National Privacy Principles or set out obligations that are at least equivalent to those principles. The code must specify the organisations bound by the code or a way of determining the organisations that are, or will be, bound by it. Only organisations that consent to be bound by the code are, or will be bound by it. The code must also set out a procedure by which an organisation may cease to be bound by the code and when cessation takes effect.

A code may set out procedures for making and dealing with complaints, including providing for the appointment of an independent adjudicator to whom complaints may be made.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will have a major role in the implementation of the private sector privacy legislation, including helping businesses to develop their own privacy codes.

The Attorney will be available for interview at a short doorstop interview at the Tangney electorate office in Perth at 11:30am (WST) today. The office is located at Suite 8, The Gateway Building, Garden City Shopping Centre, Booragoon.

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