Australian business will pay for privacy.

AutorLeif Gamertsfelder
CargoIT Group. Deacons Graham & James Brisbane, Australia.

"The privacy laws that the Federal Government is currently drafting will have a major impact on the activities of Australian businesses because no general right to privacy has ever been recognised in this country. This may take some businesses by surprise. Businesses that address this issue promptly will be well placed to minimise compliance costs," says to Geoff Hancock, a partner with leading international law firm Deacons Graham & James.

The Privacy (Private Sector) Bill 1999 will force all businesses in the private sector (including clubs, banks, accountants and retailers) to comply with these laws at their own cost. The proposed laws will contain standards for the handling of personal information. Personal information is generally defined in jurisdictions that have privacy laws as information that can be used to identify an individual and associated data. It is expected that the Bill will contain a similar definition.

Phillip Hourigan, a partner from Deacons Graham & James' Intellectual Property and Technology Group, said "This means that information such as names and addresses must be collected and used in accordance with the privacy laws when they come into effect. Also, businesses that produce software or firmware that processes personal information or can capture personal information on-line should ensure that their products comply with the proposed laws."

The standards contained in the new laws will be based on the National Privacy Principles (NPPs) and will include laws that:

* regulate the manner in which personal information is collected

* regulate the use and disclosure of personal information

* provide quality standards in relation to personal information

* require personal information to be kept in a secure manner

* require a business to be open about what kinds of personal information it holds and what it does with that information

* provide a right for data subjects to have access to and correct personal information

* prohibit the collection of sensitive information, eg, information revealing racial or ethnic origin or details about health or sex life

The only exemptions that will apply in relation to the obligations under the proposed laws are those in relation to:

* personal information collected and used in a domestic capacity (eg, making a family tree);

* employee records (eg, letters, resumes and referee reports); and

* personal information collected, used and disclosed by the media for the purposes of informing the...

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