Privacy Act changes finally introduced to parliament

Reforms to the Privacy Act 1988 have finally been introduced to parliament, six years after the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) began its inquiry.

The reforms are part of the government's first stage response to the ALRC inquiry, which began in 2006.

The changes introduced to parliament include: Increased regulation of personal information for marketing purposes; extending privacy protections to unsolicited information; restrictions on sending personal information to overseas companies; improved access for consumers to information held about them; and an increased protection of personal e-health information.

The reforms also include changes to credit reporting arrangements, such as organisations now being required to justify disputed credit listings and consumers gaining easier access to their credit information.

“There have been big changes to the way we access finance since 1990 when the existing credit reporting provisions came into effect,” Nicola Roxon, attorney-general, said in a statement.

“Many consumers have expressed their frustration at not being able to understand their credit rating. These changes will provide much more power to consumers to be able to access and, if necessary, correct their credit reports.

“These new privacy laws focus on giving power back to consumers over how organisations use their personal information.”

The ALRC began its inquiry into the Privacy Act in 2006, releasing 295 recommendations in August 2008. In October 2009, the government released its first stage response to the ALRC’s report, responding to 197 of the recommendations.

A total of 98 recommendations will be addressed by the government in its second stage response, which will include the removal of exceptions, compulsory data breach notifications and the potential for civil penalties for serious breaches of privacy.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

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