Have you wondered why there is always fine print about the collection of personal information below email sign-up forms on websites? Many businesses use a collection notice on their websites to notify users that the business collects and uses their personal information. However, is it compulsory for your business to have one too? This article will address when and how to use collection notices for your website.

Who Must Use Collection Notices?  

Only certain types of businesses need to use collection notices. They include:

  • businesses with over $3 million in turnover annually;
  • health service providers (including gyms) and government agencies;
  • some small businesses that buy or sell personal information; and
  • businesses or organisations that choose to comply with the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).

If your business falls within one of those categories, you must comply with the APPs as you are classified as an APP entity. The APPs are a series of rules for certain businesses and organisations that help to safeguard individual privacy. For example, APP 5 covers the use of collection notices. If you fail to comply with an APP, your business could be fined.

What Should be Included in a Collection Notice?

You must include certain information in your collection notice to comply with the APP. Your website users should know:

  • who collects their personal information. You should state your business name and contact details;
  • why you collect the information. For example, you can say you are collecting the customer’s personal information so you can respond to their enquiry;
  • if the collection is required by law. For example, government agencies like Medicare or Centrelink must mention that they are legally required to collect certain information;
  • where they can find your privacy policy. For example, you can say: “You can read more about how we deal with your personal information in our privacy policy here” and ensure you provide a working link the policy; and
  • if you disclose or are likely to disclose information to overseas recipients. For example, you may say: “We disclose strictly necessary personal information to MailChimp, who we use to help us make sure you get our fortnightly update straight to your inbox, right on time. MailChimp is a company based in Atlanta, the United States”.

Where Should You Place Your Collection Notice?

The APPs do not say where exactly you have to place your collection notice. However, they do state you must take ‘reasonable steps’ to notify individuals that you are collecting their personal information. Therefore, the meaning of ‘reasonable steps’ means will often depend on how you are collecting the information as part of your business activities.

For example, if you want users to sign up to an email list, you may place the collection notice below a sign-up form. You can use smaller text below the form so that your collection notice will not overwhelm users during the sign-up process. However, you also do not want your notice to be hard to read. Otherwise, people will ignore the text and you may not have taken reasonable steps to notify people.

What if users try to sign up on their smartphone, but you cannot include the collection notice at the bottom of your form for space reasons? You could mention that you are collecting information and provide a direct link to both your collection notice and privacy policy.

Example: If you’d like to know more about how we collect, use and hold your personal information, please refer to our Collection Notice and our Privacy Policy. 

The above examples are not an exhaustive list of where you can place your collection notice. Ultimately, you have to consider how your customers would like to be notified in a way that is convenient while ensuring your business complies with the APPs.

Key Takeaways

The APPs explain when and how to use collection notices. If the APPs apply to your business, you must have a collection notice on your website. Your collection notice should include details on:

  1. who collects the personal information;
  2. why you collect the information;
  3. if the collection is required by law;
  4. where website users can read your privacy policy; and
  5. whether you disclose or are likely to disclose information to overseas recipients.

If you have any questions, get in touch with LegalVision’s online lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill in the form on this page.

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