NSW privacy commissioner urges agencies to build public trust with transparency

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday May 5, 2020

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New South Wales government agencies must be open and upfront with how they collect and use people’s information, according to the state privacy commissioner.

Commissioner Samantha Gavel on Tuesday launched Privacy Awareness Week NSW 2020 through an online public sector forum in Sydney. Opened by attorney general Mark Speakman, the forum was attended remotely by public servants from government agencies across the state.

The theme for Privacy Awareness Week NSW this year is Prevent, Detect, Protect:

  • Prevent – government agencies are responsible for making sure the right processes are followed and correct procedures are in place for managing people’s personal information.
  • Detect – government agencies are responsible for ensuring that security protections such as detecting intrusions are up-to-date and effective, and notifying the Privacy Commissioner of any breaches to citizens’ privacy.
  • Protect – government agencies have an obligation to protect citizens’ privacy and help them be aware of and able to exercise their rights under NSW privacy legislation.

The campaign aims to improve understanding and awareness of NSW privacy legislation, as well as raise awareness of privacy rights and agency obligations.

Gavel noted Privacy Awareness Week has been particularly pertinent during the current global pandemic.

“Privacy commissioners around Australia appreciate that individuals, organisations and governments are facing significant challenges to stop the spread of COVID-19. The use of personal information is part of addressing this public health crisis but must be managed according to privacy laws,” she said.

“Privacy laws, including those in NSW, contain mechanisms to permit the exchange of critical information in these circumstances. Those laws also require that personal information is handled in a way that is reasonably necessary to prevent and manage COVID-19 and is protected.”

Privacy commissioner Samantha Gavel, NSW attorney general Mark Speakman, Professor David Lacey, and NSW cyber security chief Tony Chapman.

However, good privacy practices should apply beyond COVID-19.

“Government agencies are increasingly seeking to share and analyse data to assist them with gaining better insights into policy options and providing better outcomes for citizens. NSW government agencies need to be open and upfront with how we collect and how we use people’s information. This is critical to building public trust,” Gavel said.

“Having good privacy practices and taking a privacy-by-design approach to projects will also aid in creating this trust in digital service delivery. Good privacy practice enables the public to have confidence that their personal information is appropriately protected.”

The privacy commissioner has released guidance on creating a Privacy Impact Assessment, and a fact sheet on privacy by design, which explains key principles and gives examples on how agencies can implement privacy by design.

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