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Australia’s Notifiable Data Breaches scheme commencing on February 22

Australia’s Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme will come into effect later this week on February 22, 2018. Ahead of the commencement, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has released new resources for the Australian public.

The NDB scheme mandates that Australian Government agencies and the various organisations with obligations to secure personal information under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act) notify individuals affected by data breaches that are likely to result in serious harm.

A data breach occurs when personal information held by an organisation is lost or subjected to unauthorised access or disclosure, for instance when a database containing personal information is hacked or personal information is mistakenly provided to the wrong person. Not all data breaches are notifiable.

Agencies and organisations must also notify the OAIC about data breaches that are likely to result in serious harm to any individual.

Generally, agencies and organisations have a maximum of 30 days to assess whether a data breach is likely to result in serious harm.

The Receiving data breach notifications resource published by OAIC provides useful guidance on what to expect when an individual receives a data breach notification, including how organisations might deliver notifications and when a privacy complaint can be made to the OAIC.

The other new resource, What to do after a data breach notification, provides a wide range of actions an individual can take to reduce the risk of experiencing harm after a data breach.

Among the information provided are tips on combating the harm that may result from a breach involving financial information or contact information and steps to take when a person believes that they may be a victim of identity fraud.

The OAIC has worked with consumer groups, not-for-profits, and Australian Government agencies in the development of these resources.

The Australian Information Commissioner, Mr Timothy Pilgrim, said, “The Notifiable Data Breaches scheme formalises a long-standing community expectation to be told when a data breach that is likely to cause serious harm occurs. The practical benefit of the scheme is that it gives individuals the chance to reduce their risk of harm, such as by re-securing compromised online accounts. The scheme also has a broader beneficial impact — it reinforces organisations’ accountability for personal information protection and encourages a higher standard of personal information security across the public and private sectors.”

“By reinforcing accountability for personal information protection, the NDB scheme supports greater consumer and community trust in data management. This trust is key to realising the potential of data to benefit the community, for example, by informing better policy-making and the development of products and services,” Commissioner Pilgrim added.

The 2017 Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey released in May last year, found that 94 per cent of Australians believe they should be told if a business loses their personal information. Ninety-five per cent said they should be told if a government agency loses their personal information.

Organisations are required to notify the Australian Information Commissioner in addition to notifying individuals affected by an ‘eligible data breach’ (a data breach that is likely to result in serious harm). Failures to comply with the NDB scheme can attract fines up to $2.1 million.

The  new resources for the Australian public can be accessed here: www.oaic.gov.au/individuals/data-breach-guidance.  

Guidance for organisations to assist them in implementing the requirements of the NDB scheme can be found at: www.oaic.gov.au/ndb.

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