In September 2023, the Australian Government signalled its broad approval of the proposed reforms of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act). According to its report, the reforms are aimed at strengthening the protection of personal information and the control individuals have over their information. Stronger privacy protections would support digital innovation and enhance Australia’s reputation as a trusted trading partner.
Although there is no certainty as to the specific changes to be made to the Privacy Act, businesses in the real estate industry can use this guidance to proactively stay ahead of the anticipated changes.
The existing framework relies largely on individuals to self-manage their privacy, however, there is now a shift towards placing greater responsibility onto businesses. In its review, the Government agreed in-principle to require that the collection, use and disclosure of personal information is “fair and reasonable” in the circumstances.
What does this proposed change mean for businesses in the real estate industry? Often, multiple sources of personal information and identity documents are collected during verification of identity practices. While it is currently considered best practice to request only the necessary information, the proposed amendments may formalise this as a legal requirement, restricting businesses from requesting an excessive number of identity documents.
Importantly, it was also agreed in-principle that businesses should be required to establish minimum and maximum retention periods for personal information held, and that this should be specified in their privacy policies.
Real estate industry databases can contain an abundance of personal information, which can increase the risk of being compromised. Currently, the Privacy Act requires businesses to destroy or de-identify personal information once it is no longer needed. By taking this a step further and requiring businesses to set clear minimum and maximum retention periods of personal information, this will better protect the privacy of individuals.
Lastly, if your business is currently exempt from the Privacy Act because it is a small business with an annual turnover of $3 million or less, it is important to note that the Government has agreed in-principle to remove this exemption, but only after an impact analysis and appropriate support is developed in consultation with small businesses.
Written By Cass Wright – Director, Commercial Legal
CCIWA, Business Law WA and REEFWA has taken all reasonable care in preparing this document. The contents of this document do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific advice for your situation should be sought from CCIWA, Business Law WA or a professional adviser before any action is taken. Neither REEFWA, CCIWA nor Business Law WA accept responsibility for any claim that arises from any person acting or refraining from acting on the information contained in this document.
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