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Welcome to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s Blog


The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is working towards an open government and engaged community where information rights are respected and valued. As part of this goal, we’ll use this forum to advise of our policy development work and invite you to comment.

To keep up with OAIC news, visit our main website or join OAICNet


Community Attitudes to Privacy survey results

By OAIC on 30 Oct 2013 5:17pm

Following the launch of the 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey results, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has published the de-identified data on the government data portal. In addition to the data from the 2013 survey, the OAIC has also made the 2007 data available.  graphic: community attitudes to privacy infographic small version

The 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy study measures Australians’ changing awareness and opinions about privacy, as well as their expectations in relation to the handling of their personal information. The study also seeks views on a range of privacy issues, such as online privacy, social media and mobile apps, credit reporting and privacy in the workplace. The study was last undertaken in 2007.

Data for this study were collected through Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) (using mobile and fixed line) between 13 June and 10 July 2013. In total 1,000 interviews were completed with Australians aged over 18 years of age. Quotas were set for age, gender and region to ensure a representative response, as well as ensuring a robust sample.  The data were weighted to represent the Australian community. However, due to the use of quotas, the effect of the weighting was minimal. Results were analysed against demographic splits, as well as against longitudinal data from 2007, 2004 and 2001. The full report provides considerable analysis as well as detailed information on methodology.

With the massive growth in the technology industry, privacy issues are constantly changing and adapting. ‘Big data’ as we now know it did not exist at the time of the last Community Attitudes to Privacy survey in 2007. Smartphones and social media were still gaining traction, and we are only just coming to understand how they influence the way we interact and communicate as a community.

From March next year, the OAIC will be regulating the handling of personal information through a significantly amended Privacy Act, which constitutes the biggest change to privacy legislation in over 20 years. In implementing these changes, the OAIC will be engaging with the public and private sectors and the community about the interpretation and enforcement of the amended Privacy Act.

Technology and privacy law reforms are just two areas that interest us and the survey results are very helpful in this regard. However, we’re also interested in seeing how others are able to use the survey data, identify other patterns and extract further analysis. Information held by the Australian Government is a national resource, and is to be made available for public access and use. In that spirit, the OAIC has published this raw data to ensure it is open and accessible. There is a wealth of information contained in this research and there is great value in opening this data up to others to see the different ways it can be used.

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GPEN internet sweep indicates room for improvement in website privacy policies

By OAIC on 23 Aug 2013 10:19am

In May 2013, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) participated in the first International Internet Privacy Sweep, along with 18 other privacy enforcement authorities from the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN). The theme of the sweep was ‘Privacy Practice Transparency’. From 6–12 May 2013, sweep participants engaged in a coordinated effort to assess privacy issues related to website and app privacy policies. The purpose of the Sweep was to imitate everyday users’ experiences and methods of engaging with privacy policies, not to conduct an in-depth analysis of privacy issues.

OAIC staff reviewed 47 of the websites most used by Australians, including public and private sector organisations, to assess the accessibility, readability and content of privacy policies. The sweep of websites also included those organisations most complained about to the OAIC.

The OAIC found that the average reading age for privacy policies on Australian websites was 16, above the OAIC’s proposed ideal minimum reading age of 14. This is particularly relevant given the increasing number of teenagers and young people using websites with complex privacy policies. Some websites use the ‘layered privacy policy’ approach, with a simplified and a full privacy policy, which helps to address this issue. Read more

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Agency and Business Resources — De-identification of data and information

By John McMillan on 9 Apr 2013 9:04am

The OAIC has the dual roles of protecting the privacy of individuals and promoting open government. Often government agencies are concerned about the privacy implications of releasing data to the public. A potential solution to this issue is to de-identify the data or information so that individuals cannot be identified. De-identification can also allow researchers to share and publish the results of their research, and provide increased privacy protection when sharing information between different sections of a business.

The OAIC has developed a draft agency and business resource to provide guidance to agencies, researchers and the private sector about the following topics:

  • What is de-identification?
  • Why you should de-identify information.
  • When to de-identify information.
  • How to de-identify information.
  • Assessing the risk of re-identification.

Read more

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Mobile apps and privacy

By Timothy Pilgrim on 5 Apr 2013 4:56pm

More Australians than ever are using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, not only for communication for also for social networking, internet access, gaming, photography, location information, and many other things. Mobile devices contain increasingly large amounts of personal information — personal information which may be accessed by the apps we download.

We trust that apps won’t misuse our personal information and that of our friends (for example, that they won’t collect, use or share personal information they don’t need) and that we’ll have the chance to have a say in how our information will be used.

But are all app developers aware of the steps they should take to protect our privacy?

To help mobile app developers protect our privacy, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has produced a consultation draft guide, Mobile privacy: A better practice guide for mobile app developers (PDF) (RTF)

Although the Guide is aimed at app developers, the office welcomes comments by other interested parties and members of the public.

You can post your comments here on the blog or you can email your ideas to

Further information about the consultation can be found on our consultations page.

The period for comments on the draft has been extended until Monday 13 May 2013.

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FOI requests, costs and charges over time

By James Popple on 31 May 2012 2:01pm

Dr James Popple is the Freedom of Information Commissioner

Charges under the FOI Act have long been a point of discussion, as seen in the recent Review of charges under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Charges Review). Without pre-empting the Government’s consideration of, or response to, the Charges Review recommendations, this post will discuss the relationship between FOI requests and costs since the FOI Act was enacted in 1982.

In several recent presentations, including at the May 2012 joint meeting of the Information Advisory Committee and the Privacy Advisory Committee, I’ve used this graph to demonstrate the relationship between the number of FOI requests, the agency costs attributed to the FOI Act, and the actual fees and charges collected:

Graph showing relationship between FOI requests and costs from 1982 to 2011 as described in the surrounding text

A similar graph was included in Part 1 of the Charges Review, based on statistics collected from agencies and ministers and published in FOI Annual Reports each year. The data behind the graph is available at the end of this post, along with a PowerPoint version of the graph which uses transitions to illustrate each new set of data as it is plotted on the graph. Read more

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Review of charges under the FOI Act released

By John McMillan on 27 Mar 2012 12:44pm

Professor John McMillan is the Australian Information Commissioner

It is vital, in applying charges under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, that a proper balance is struck between the right of individuals to request access to government information and the resources required by agencies and ministers to respond to those requests.

I have now released on the OAIC website the Review of Charges under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, which was provided to the Attorney-General in February 2012. The report makes nine recommendations for reform. The FOI charges review began in October 2011, and included successful consultation with applicants and agencies about the impact of the current charging regime on the operation of the Act.

The OAIC website contains the full list of submissions to the review. Submissions from applicants stressed the need to minimise cost barriers, and to ensure that the charging framework under the Act does not shift to a full cost recovery basis. Agencies, on the other hand, highlighted the need to simplify FOI charges, and that the scale of charges under the Act had not been altered since their introduction in 1986. A consistent theme in many of the agency submissions involved the useful role charges can play in initiating a discussion with applicants to reduce broad requests to a more manageable level.

The review puts forward four principles to underpin a new FOI charging framework:

Support of a democratic right: Freedom of information supports transparent, accountable and responsive government. A substantial part of the cost should be borne by government.

Lowest reasonable cost: No one should be deterred from requesting government information because of costs, particularly personal information that should be provided free of charge. The scale of charges should be directed more at moderating unmanageable requests.

Uncomplicated administration: The charges framework should be clear and easy for agencies to administer and applicants to understand. The options open to an applicant to reduce the charges payable should be readily apparent.

Free informal access as a primary avenue: The legal right of access to documents is important, but should supplement other measures adopted by agencies to publish information and make it available upon request. Read more

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