OAIC publishes new privacy guidance for government agencies

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday May 4, 2020


The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has called on government agencies to consider their privacy controls during the 2020 Privacy Awareness Week.

Starting May 4, this year the event is particularly relevant as activity and interactions including work, school, and socialising move online due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to information and privacy commissioner Angelene Falk.

“As consumers, Privacy Awareness Week is an opportunity to reboot our privacy by checking our privacy controls and settings,” she said.

“For businesses and Australian government agencies, it serves as an important reminder to check the right controls are in place and to build in privacy by design.”

OAIC has called on the public to check and update their privacy controls, consider the alternative when giving or asking for personal information, and delete data from old devices.

People should also destroy or deidentify personal information if it’s not needed for legal purposes.

As part of Privacy Awareness Week, OAIC has developed a range of resources for government agencies including an e-learning course for public servants, and advice to help regulated entities assess the privacy risks involved in changed working environments.

The e-learning course covers three modules: an introduction to the Privacy Act and the key concepts; the handling of personal information; and the ways agencies can manage privacy issues.

As governments implement strategies to respond to COVID-19, they should be guided by the key principles of good privacy practice, Falk noted.

“Put the right controls in place. Consider the privacy risks and come up with alternatives. Collect only what is necessary and delete or de-identify information if it’s no longer required for a legal purpose,” she said.

“Above all, be transparent in how you handle personal information and give people choice wherever possible.”

OAIC has also published tips for consumers to help them protect their personal information.

Individuals can join Falk and New Zealand’s privacy commissioner John Edwards on Wednesday for a webinar, where they will explore the privacy issues that have arisen during COVID-19.

Privacy Awareness Week is held every May as an initiative of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities. It is now in its 15th year.

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