Reading time: 3 minutes

Technology plays an increasingly important role in our homes, businesses and personal devices. As a result, we are generating more personal data than ever before. As a business owner, you may value this data because it can allow you to better understand your client base. It can also be essential information to collect from your employees. However, strict laws apply to the collection, storage, and use of personal and sensitive information. If you collect data from your employees, it is important to understand exactly what type of information your business deals with. Understanding the difference between personal and sensitive information allows you to understand what your obligations are under Australian privacy laws. This article will explain the difference between personal and sensitive information.

Why is There a Distinction Between Personal and Sensitive Information?

Any organisation that collects, stores, uses or discloses personal and sensitive information has certain obligations under Australian privacy laws. However, these obligations are stricter in relation to sensitive information. This is because of how serious the effect of disclosing sensitive information may be on a person’s life. The nature of sensitive information means that if a business inappropriately handles that information, the person affected might suffer:

  • discrimination;
  • mistreatment;
  • humiliation; or
  • embarrassment.

Because of this, sensitive information attracts greater protection under privacy laws than personal information. Businesses that handle this type of information should be very careful.

What is Personal Information?

Personal information is a very broad term. Generally, it refers to any information or opinion about:

  • a particular individual; or
  • a person who could be easily identified

Even if this information or opinion is untrue or inaccurate, it may still be considered personal information under the law. The information also does not need to be in written form. Some examples of personal information include an individual’s:

  • name;
  • address;
  • phone number;
  • date of birth;
  • signature;
  • email address; and
  • bank account details.

What is Sensitive Information?

Sensitive information is a type of personal information. Unlike some personal information, however, sensitive information may result in discrimination or harm if it is mishandled. For example, sensitive information includes any information or opinion about an individual’s:

  • race or ethnic origin;
  • political opinions or membership of a political organisation;
  • religious beliefs and affiliations;
  • philosophical beliefs;
  • membership of a professional association or trade union;
  • sexual preferences and orientation;
  • criminal record;
  • health information;
  • genetic information; or
  • biometric information.

What Personal Information Do I Have About My Employees?

If your business has employees, you are likely to possess specific pieces of information that are considered personal information. For example, your business may possess details about an employee’s:

  • terms and conditions of employment;
  • personal and emergency contact details;
  • performance and conduct assessments;
  • hours of employment;
  • salary or wages;
  • membership of a professional or trade association (which is also sensitive information);
  • membership of a trade union (which is also sensitive information);
  • leave accrual and use; or
  • taxation, banking or superannuation details.

Once you have identified what personal information you currently have about your employees, you should ensure that you protect and organise this information correctly and securely.

Key Takeaways

It is important to understand what type of information your business collects and why your business collects it. Once you have a clear understanding of the information you are dealing with, you can review your obligations under Australian privacy laws relating how you store and protect the personal and sensitive information you collect. If you have any questions about how your business collects or uses employees’ information, contact LegalVision’s IT lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page. 


Redundancies and Restructuring: Understanding Your Employer Obligations

Thursday 7 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

If you plan on making a role redundant, it is crucial that you understand your employer obligations. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Sponsor Foreign Workers For Your Tech Business

Wednesday 13 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Need web3 talent for your tech business? Consider sponsoring workers from overseas. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Advertising 101: Social Media, Influencers and the Law

Thursday 21 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how to promote your business on social media without breaking the law. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Structuring for Certainty in Uncertain Times

Tuesday 26 July | 12:00 - 12:45pm

Learn how to structure to weather storm and ensure you can take advantage of the “green shoots” opportunities arising on the other side of a recession.
Register Now

Playing for the Prize: How to Run Trade Promotions

Thursday 28 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Running a promotion with a prize? Your business has specific trade promotion obligations. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Web3 Essentials: Understanding SAFT Agreements

Tuesday 2 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Learn how SAFT Agreements can help your Web3 business when raising capital. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

Understanding Your Annual Franchise Update Obligations

Wednesday 3 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Franchisors must meet annual reporting obligations each October. Understand your legal requirements by registering for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Legal Essentials for Product Manufacturers

Thursday 11 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

As a product manufacturer, do you know your legal obligations if there is a product recall? Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards