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How Will Reforms to the Privacy Act Affect You?

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How will reforms to the Privacy Act affect your business?

As EzyLearn provides what, in our humble opinion, is the best Small Business Management Course in Australia (yes, blatant plug, but we firmly believe this and can show you why) the issue of privacy, and the way people’s privacy is handled by small business, is of concern to us.

In November last year, the Gillard government’s Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill was passed in parliament, marking some of the biggest changes to the Privacy Act in the last 20 years. The reforms, which are due to come into force in March next year, give individuals greater control over their personal information and who has access to it, making it essential for all businesses to review the way they handle their customers’ details to ensure they’re not in breach of the Act.

Australian Privacy Principles and Direct Marketing

Perhaps the biggest change to the Act is the introduction the Australia Privacy Principles (APPs), which, by streamlining previous policies relating to privacy into one set of guidelines, will limit an organisation’s ability to use unsolicited information; regulate the use and disclosure of personal information for the purpose of direct marketing; and introduce new responsibilities for organisations transferring information overseas.

For the first time, the Privacy Act — by way of the APPs — takes issue with direct marketing, particularly whether or not an individual would reasonably expect an organisation to use and disclose their information for the purpose of direct marketing.

So for every business that collects email addresses and other personal information during the course of their operating procedures and then uses that data to contact lapsed customers or remind them of “special offers” this could well be in breach of the Act.

Regardless of whether organisations offer individuals an “opt-out” mechanism, greater onus is now being placed on how the organisation came to hold the individuals information in the first place.

Individuals will now be able to request that organisations tell them how they got their personal information or request that an organisation doesn’t disclose their information to anyone for the purpose of direct marketing.

This could potentially put an end to the practice of organisations renting data to or from other companies for the purpose of direct marketing, or at least reduce the instances of it.

Privacy Breaches

The reforms also introduce a new scheme for credit reporting — making it possible to be denied any future credit if you miss or pay a loan or credit card payment late — and give the Information Commissioner greater powers over privacy breaches.

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For every business dealing with their customers’ personal information, the new reforms should serve as an impetus to review your current policies relating to data collection to ensure you’re in compliance with the Act. To start with, does your business or website have a readily viewable privacy policy? You can find a variety of free online templates and more at LawLive.

And on a lighter note — Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mum’s out there.

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