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People are becoming more concerned about their privacy rights. As a result, your business needs to start taking greater care to ensure compliance with privacy law. Doing so will bolster both your employees’ and your customers’ confidence that you take their privacy seriously. One way to manage your obligations is to nominate a privacy officer. So, in this article we explore:

  • who a privacy officer is;
  • what their responsibilities are; and 
  • the benefits of having one in your business. 

What is a Privacy Officer? 

A privacy officer is an employee in your business, who is responsible for: 

  • ensuring privacy compliance; and
  • handling privacy-related enquiries. 

Your privacy officer should remain aware of recent privacy law developments and ensure that they implement any requirements. It is their responsibility to build a culture of privacy compliance within the organisation. 

Are Privacy Officers Mandatory?

Businesses do not need to have a privacy officer; only Australian Government agencies are required to have this role. Although many aspects of privacy compliance are not required by law, they are strongly recommended to demonstrate that you take privacy seriously. 

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) recommends many practices for APP entities which promote compliance with the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs). An APP entity is one which: 

  • has an annual turnover of more than $3 million;
  • provides health services; or
  • buys, sells or otherwise trades in personal information.

One of the practices recommended for APP entities is nominating a Privacy Officer. If you have a large business, you may need to appoint multiple officers.

Privacy Officer Responsibilities 

You should clearly explain the role of a privacy officer to the employee who you appoint. Key responsibilities of a privacy officer may include:

  • implementing a Privacy Management Plan;
  • implementing a Data Breach Response Plan;
  • responding to data breaches (following your Data Breach Response Plan);
  • ensuring that your website’s privacy policy is up to date;
  • ensuring that your business complies with Australian privacy and data laws and regulations, and potentially overseas regulations such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR);
  • training other staff about recent privacy and data law updates;
  • recording what information your business collects and what you do with it; and
  • being the point of contact for other employees, customers or clients who have privacy-related questions or complaints.

Benefits of Having a Privacy Officer

Having a business privacy officer is not mandatory but it can be beneficial for a few reasons:

  • there is one person tasked with privacy compliance;
  • privacy complaints and questions are managed by one person to ensure consistency in answers and responses; and
  • it demonstrates a commitment to comply with the APPs. 

Key Takeaways

While it is not mandatory, your businesses would benefit from having a privacy officer. Above all, the role can:

  • promote privacy compliance within your business; and
  • streamline processes for dealing with privacy issues or complaints.

If you have any questions or would like advice on your obligations under the APPs, contact LegalVision’s privacy lawyers by calling 1300 544 755 or filling out the form on this page.

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