The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OIAC) administers the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and is able to assist individuals who have complaints regarding privacy issues relating to Commonwealth Government agencies, private organisations, consumer credit reporting activities, tax file numbers and spent convictions.
As of 12 March 2014 the Commissioner also has powers to develop and register codes in the public interest that are binding on specified agencies and organisations.
The Commissioner has broad powers to ensure privacy [s 27] including:
- investigating, conciliating and awarding damages for breaches of the APPs by an agency or organisation.
- examining proposed legislation which would allow interference with privacy or may have any adverse effects on peoples privacy.
- researching and monitoring developments in data processing and computer technology to ensure that adverse effects on people's privacy are minimised.
- promoting an understanding and acceptance of the APPs and their objects.
- preparing and publicising guidelines for agencies and organisations to follow to avoid breaches of privacy.
- encouraging industries to develop programs to handle personal information consistent with the APPs.
Most investigations into breaches of the IPPs and NPPs result from complaints. Investigations may also occur in matters that come to the Commissioner's attention in other ways [s 40]. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has broad powers to obtain information and documents [s 44], to enter premises, to examine witnesses [s 45] and to compel attendance at compulsory conferences [s 46].
Having investigated, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner may determine whether there has been an interference with a person's privacy and make various declarations, including payment of compensation to the person concerned [s 52]. However, for the OAIC's determinations to be enforced a new action must be taken in the Federal Court.
Due to the changes to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) that came in on 12 March 2014 the Commissioner has new complaint handling powers and to provide further enforceable remedies such as the ability to conduct an assessment of an APP entity’s maintenance of personal information, accepting written undertakings about compliance with the Act, power to recognise external dispute resolution services, conciliate complaints, make determinations including orders that the Commissioner considers necessary or appropriate.
If you wish to make a complaint about an agency's or an organisation's practices which you think amounts to an arbitrary or unreasonable interference with your privacy, you should contact the Commissioner with details of the practices which you think interfere with your privacy.
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OIAC)
Telephone 1300 363 992
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.