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. The Commissioner has broad powers to ensure privacy [s 27] including:
- investigating, conciliating and awarding damages for breaches of the IPPs or NPPs 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 IPPs and NPPs 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 NPPs.
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.
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
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