Australians would have more control over their personal information, including the ability to opt out of targeted advertising, delete their data and sue for serious privacy breaches, according to a proposal to the Albanese government.
On Thursday, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus will release a study conducted by his office on modernizing the privacy law, which calls for expanding its scope to small businesses and adding new safeguards for political parties’ use of data.
While the document is not government policy, Dreyfus told Guardian Australia in January that the right to sue for privacy breaches and European-style reforms such as the right to be forgotten would be considered for the next tranche of legislation.
In 2022, the government of prime minister Anthony Albanese passed a bill to strengthen penalties for companies that fail to protect customer data, following major data breaches at telecommunications company Optus and health insurer Medibank.
A summary of the review, seen in advance by Guardian Australia, calls for the removal of the Privacy Act’s exemption for small businesses, citing community expectations that if small businesses receive personal information, « they will keep it safe. »
But the government should first conduct an impact analysis and provide support to ensure that small businesses can comply with their obligations.
The report says individuals want « more agency to seek redress for interference with their privacy, » proposing the creation of a right of action for « serious breaches of privacy, » which was also a recommendation of the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2014.
On Wednesday, Dreyfus said that « the large-scale data breaches of 2022 are painful for millions of Australians, with sensitive personal information at risk of identity fraud and scams. »
The Australian people rightly expect more protection, transparency, and control over their personal information and the release of this report marks the beginning of the process to meet those expectations.
The government is now seeking feedback on the 116 proposals in the report before deciding what further action to take.