PrivacyWeek-Banners-R1 - 2013-3MyCRA Lawyers is a proud partner for Privacy Awareness Week (PAW), held 4-10 May 2014. Privacy Awareness Week is held every year to promote awareness of privacy issues and the importance of the protection of personal information. This year is focused on our new Australian Privacy Laws, which came into force on 12 March 2014. Find out about how Privacy Laws may affect you and your credit rating, this week during PAW.

By Graham Doessel, Non-Legal Director of MyCRA Lawyers

In an age of increasing accessibility of personal information, privacy is growing ever more important, and more valued for Australians. According to a recent survey by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (the federal Australian Government body responsible for privacy in Australia), a third of Australians reported they had a privacy problem in the last year. In addition, 60% of Australians decided not to deal with a private business and 25% have decided not to deal with a government agency due to concerns as to how their personal information will be used.

Australia’s new privacy laws were the most significant changes to privacy laws in over 25 years, affecting a large section of the community. The changes to the Privacy Act 1988 include a new set of Australian Privacy Principles that regulate how your personal information is handled and new enforcement powers for the Office of the Information Commissioner (OAIC).

One of the aims of the new privacy laws is to ensure that your personal information is managed in an open and transparent way.

Here are some tips provided by the OAIC during PAW, to help you protect your personal information:

• Know your privacy rights

• Read privacy policies and notices

• Always ask why, how and who — this will help you to know how your personal information is going to be used, and if it is going to be given to another agency or organisation

• Only give out as much personal information as you need to — always think before handing your personal information over

• Ask for access to your personal information

• Make sure the information an organisation or agency holds about you is accurate and up to date

• Take steps to protect your online privacy

• Make sure your hard copy records are properly destroyed

• You can ‘opt out’ of marketing communications if you do not want to receive any further contact of this kind

• Make a privacy complaint if you consider that your personal information has not been handled properly.

Many identity theft cases that impact your credit rating could have been prevented with better education and more vigilance around the protection of personal information. Complacency around personal information, both on the part of consumers and entities such as agencies and businesses, can be the undoing of someone’s ability to obtain credit.

Pieces of personal information are the building blocks for credit file misuse. You can lose your personal information to fraudsters in many ways, and you may be unaware of how or when it has occurred – particularly if it has happened via malware, through data breaches or even through too much sharing online.

Sometimes it’s not until you apply for credit and are refused that you even find out you have been exposed to identity fraud, and by then it may be too late to detect how it took place.

This is why it is so important for all Australians to educate themselves on how to keep their information secure, and to demand that any information they are required to give over to any person or company be treated with the utmost privacy. Australia’s new Privacy Laws will hopefully add the requirements for all entities holding our personal information to be more aware of and accountable for upholding personal information privacy.

You can find out about your rights in more detail through the OAIC’s Privacy factsheet ‘How changes to privacy law affect you.’

THIS PAW WEEK: If you have a business, get some help in our next post with how to navigate the new privacy laws, including how to update your Privacy Policy, and how and when to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment. For consumers and businesses alike, also stay tuned this week for how Australia’s new Privacy Laws may impact your ability to obtain credit, through changes to credit reporting laws.