Wednesday, 05 March 2014 15:29

New privacy laws pose potential risks for execs

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Privacy caution - Wikimedia Privacy caution - Wikimedia

C-level executives have been warned that they risk being fined for misconduct if the don’t have the right tools in place when handling personal information when new privacy laws come into effect in one week’s time.

According to Laureen Smith, Vice President – Asia Pacific, Workshare, the handling of personal information is about to get “tighter and more complex” in Australia with the Privacy Amendment Bill 2012 becoming law from 12 March.

“Australian organisations now have to operate under new rules, controlling the way they use ‘personal’ information about individuals, particularly as the trend towards cloud adoption and the use of personal devices to share information and documents in the workplace continues.”

Smith said Australian organisations need to be more transparent and responsive about how they are handling customer data and, “if data is stored in the cloud, there are some new requirements that will apply, particularly if it is held offshore.”

“The handling of personal information has reached a tipping point for Australian companies as the use of personal devices in the workplace multiplies exponentially, Smith cautioned.

“As a result, we’re seeing a shift towards cloud services that enable mobility for their users yet provide the level of security businesses require. C-level executives need to make sure they have the right tools in place to handle all personal information correctly, or they risk being fined for misconduct.

“This is not to be taken lightly, because failure to comply with the new laws means organisations can be hit with fines of up to $1.7 million, which will have a serious impact on their bottom line as well as reputation. Technology will play a major role in helping Australian organisations comply with the new privacy legislation, by providing them with the control they need to ensure that as a company they are handling personal information correctly and complying at all times.”

Smith said that under the changes to the privacy laws, the definition of personal information itself is changing and becoming much broader, “encapsulating many new data types that weren’t previously considered ‘personal’.”

“Much of this is thanks to advances in technology that makes it possible to generate and capture data not feasible when the previous legislation was introduced back in 1988.”

The new law applies to any companies with revenues over $3 million that collect information, such as names, contact details, payment information or other details related to a specific person, for any purpose.

Smith advised that organisations needed to introduce strict security measures by implementing “secure cloud applications that enable them to gain complete control and visibility over corporate documents and personal data.”


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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