Privacy law update expected within weeks

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Government "working night and day".

The Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig, expects to publish a reponse to the Australian Law Reform Commission's report on updating the Privacy Laws "within weeks".

The Government had set itself a loose deadline of responding sometime between August 11, 2009 and February 2010.

The ALRC's three volume report, entitled 'Australian Privacy Law and Practice', was published last August and recommended 295 changes to the current privacy laws.

A spokesperson from the office of the Senator told iTnews that the report is a "high priority" and the department is working on it "night and day".

"We are hoping to get something released very shortly ... it will be weeks rather than days but as soon as it is humanly possible, we will have something out," the spokesperson said.

The Government's initial response will be an important step towards industry hopes for a legislated requirement for organisations to disclose data breaches to customers.

According to a recent survey published by the Australian Institute of Criminology, 30 per cent of large companies admitted they had suffered at least one security breach over the past year.

An alarming 11 per cent of firms claimed they did not even know if a breach had occurred.

The actual number of breaches could be much higher than indicated in the survey because companies are currently not required to declare such incidents, according to Nigel Phair, a security analyst and author.

He explained that a large proportion of organisations are understandably keeping quiet about their security woes despite experiencing serious data breaches.

"Without any laws, there is no reason to report [security breaches]. Why would you report them? There are lots of reasons not to," Phair said.

Phair also suggested that if consumers recognised the full consequences of a data beach, they might be more vocal.

"Do consumers understand how much of their personal information is out there ... and the potential ramifications if [a company] gets compromised; I don't think people fully understand," he said.

However, Phair warned that legislation is a 'blunt instrument' and said he would be in favour of disclosure laws but "only if they are the right laws".

"You need to make sure all the stakeholders are involved because if the laws are not drafted properly it isn't going to work," said Phair.

Another consideration when creating the laws is how to enforce them, said Phair.

"Who is going to police them? Will there be resources for this? It's like a traffic law where you can go through a stop sign unless there is someone there to police it," he added.


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