Tom White and Alicia Carroll with a laptop, outside office building
Corporate & Commercial 29 October 2016

Does my privacy policy comply with privacy laws?

Unless you’ve reviewed it lately, probably not.

New privacy laws were introduced in March 2014. The laws known as the Australian Privacy Principles are a new set of privacy principles affecting the handling of personal information.

If you have a website privacy policy you should review it for compliance with the new privacy principles.

The new laws aim to bring Australia’s privacy laws (first introduced in 2001) in line with current technology trends and to provide more transparency around the capture and use of personal information.

The principles apply to organisations and Government agencies and hefty fines may apply for non-compliance.

The principles make it more difficult for you, as a business, to collect information about consumers without their knowledge and changes how your business can handle, use and store personal information, and engage in direct marketing.

If your business is affected, you may need to update your privacy policy and your procedures and systems to comply with the law.

Which businesses do the privacy laws affect?

If you generate more than $3 million in annual turnover and you handle personal information, your business is affected. If you generate less than $3 million but your business is “trading in personal information” you may also be affected by the changes in the law.

What does “trade in personal information” mean?

Personal information is information that identifies, or could reasonably identify, an individual. This includes names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details.

Trading in personal information includes collecting or providing personal information to a third party for a benefit, service or advantage. If you collect personal information and then provide it to a business to manage your direct marketing, you may be trading in personal information.

What are the key reforms?

The key reforms affecting small businesses, particularly in the online space, are that:

  • your privacy policy must address specific topics; and
  • you must have procedures and systems in place to ensure you comply with the new laws.

Companies face fines of up to $1.7 million for serious or repeated breaches of the Privacy Act. Sole traders and entities that are not companies face fines of up to $340,000.

How do I make sure my business complies?

You should conduct a review of your business and identify how you deal with personal information. You need to address the following elements:

Privacy Notice. When you collect personal information, inform individuals of your organisation’s name, contact details, the purpose of collection and to whom it will be disclosed.

Privacy Policy. Your privacy policy must address the required topics including:

  • What personal information you collect.
  • How you collect the personal information.
  • The purposes for which you use and disclose it.
  • If you provide personal information to parties overseas you need to disclose that and, if practicable, specify the countries where those parties are located.
  • Setting out how you secure and store personal information.

Systems. Establish a system to make sure:

  • Staff who handle personal information comply with the new privacy laws.
  • Individuals can access their personal information and correct out of date or incorrect information.
  • You have a process to deal with complaints about your compliance with the laws.
  • Recipients of direct marketing material are able to unsubscribe.


You should review your business policies and procedures and identify how you deal with personal information. Following the review you should get your privacy policy in order and have procedures and systems to comply with the new law.

If you require advice or further information in relation to any of the matters discussed in this article, please contact our Corporate & Commercial team on 03 5273 5263.

Tom White.
Tom White Principal Corporate & Commercial View profile
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