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New privacy laws now in effect: How to avoid a $1.7 million fine

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 | By Cara Waters

New privacy laws came into effect this week and businesses need to review their internal processes and be prepared to pay for customer information in the future, according to law firm Finlaysons.


Under the Australian Privacy Principles, which replace the current National Privacy Principles and Information Privacy Principles, businesses could be fined up to $1.7 million for mining big data or sharing or storing information without consent.


The laws apply to businesses that turn over more than $3 million a year and collect personal data.


However, there are some small businesses which turn over less than $3 million that still need to abide by the new legislation.


For example, the laws apply if the business is a health services provider, related to a larger business, trades in personal information, or is a contractor which provides services under a Commonwealth contract.


Finlaysons technology and intellectual property associate Paul Gordon told SmartCompany the new laws will make it harder for businesses to build personal profiles of their customers and anonymous information is useless.


Gordon says it is not inconceivable to imagine people might actually start asking to be paid in the future, just as now quite often a small incentive is offered for completing a customer satisfaction survey.


“Obtaining large amounts of aggregated information is already quite cheap, but information about a particular individual is going to have a much higher value attached to it,” he says.


“Because of that businesses are going to focus more and more on how to access information and individuals are more likely to think of monetising it.”


Gordon says the new privacy laws are mainly about telling people what info is being collected, why it is being collected and what is being done with it.


“Customers are going to think – is the reward I am receiving in return enough to give up that bit of myself?” he says.


“This is going to be the first step in changes in the way we look at our personal information; with social media people have been giving away personal information quite freely.”


Gordon says businesses need to start to be aware about how they are communicating with their customers and how they are explaining to their customers what they are doing with their information.


“If you can have a good conversation and explain that you are using the information to provide a better and more personalised service, you can make it attractive to them to give you information when they need it,” he says.


“Businesses should think about whether they will need to reward people for using their personal information in the future.”


This article first appeared on SmartCompany.