Privacy Policy: What Is It and Does my Business Need One?

ian aldridgeAuthor: Ian Aldridge, Progressive Legal

what is a privacy policy

In an era where data is the new gold, safeguarding your customers’ personal information isn’t necessarily just good business practice; it could be a legal requirement for your business in Australia. But what is a privacy policy, and why should it matter to your business?

On this page, we’ll explain the concept of privacy policies, shed light on their importance, and provide valuable insights on the key elements of an effectively drafted privacy policy for your Australian business.

What is a privacy policy?

A privacy policy is a legally binding document that outlines how your business collects, uses, stores, and shares personal information gathered from customers, clients, or users. It serves as a roadmap for how you handle data and is essential in today’s data-driven world.

Think of it as a mutual agreement between your business and its stakeholders, providing transparency and assurance that their personal information is handled with care and in compliance with relevant laws. In essence, a well-drafted privacy policy is a cornerstone of responsible data management and is increasingly expected by customers as a sign of trustworthiness.

Why does your Australian business need a privacy policy?

Legal Obligations

Australian businesses of all sizes bear a significant responsibility to safeguard privacy through the implementation of policies, procedures, and practices. For certain businesses, having a privacy policy isn’t just a recommended practice; it’s a legal requirement.

The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) is the cornerstone legislation governing privacy in Australia, and non-compliance can lead to penalties and reputational damage.

It’s vital that your organisation, including small businesses, maintains a transparent, up-to-date, and easily accessible policy. Special obligations apply to businesses handling health information, and while some businesses may be exempt, they must meet specific criteria.

Transparency and Accessibility

Ensuring your privacy policy is easy to locate on your website, written in plain, understandable language, and devoid of technical jargon is essential. A user-friendly policy empowers customers to comprehend how their data is handled.

Your policy must encompass critical information, such as the types of information collected, collection methods, storage locations (including overseas, if applicable), usage, retention policies, and avenues for individuals to access, correct, and file privacy-related complaints. We’ll talk more about this later.

Compliance with Privacy Principles

Businesses must demonstrate user consent when required and outline procedures for handling privacy inquiries and complaints. This includes compliance with Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) and industry codes of practice.

For an in-depth explanation all APPs and their application, take a look at our Australian Privacy Principles page.

Which businesses are required to have a privacy policy?

Some businesses are legally mandated to maintain a privacy policy. These include those handling consumer credit reporting information, tax file numbers, information from the Personal Property Securities Register, My Health Record data, residential tenancy database operators, entities involved in Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act activities, and those engaged in protected action ballots.

Additional entities that require a privacy policy

Certain entities must also have a privacy policy, including private sector health service providers, contracted service providers for Australian Government contracts, businesses engaged in the sale or purchase of personal information, credit reporting bodies, and more.

If you’re wondering whether your business needs a privacy policy and want to ensure you have a legally compliant and effective one in place, get in touch with us today. Our experienced privacy lawyers will guide you through the process. Request our advice below.

What should be included in your privacy policy?

Creating an effective privacy policy is not just about compliance, it’s also an opportunity to build trust with your audience. To ensure your privacy policy hits the mark, here are key elements you should incorporate:

Clarity and Accessibility

Your privacy policy should be easy to locate, written in straightforward language, and kept up to date. In line with section 1.4 of the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs), it should encompass the following:

Definition of Personal Information

Start by defining ‘personal information’ to ensure clarity. You can either state that it holds the same meaning as defined under the Privacy Act or provide examples. Personal information covers a wide range, including names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and occupations.

Purpose of Information Collection

Transparency is vital. Clearly articulate why you collect, hold, use, and disclose personal information. This empowers individuals to make informed decisions when agreeing to your privacy policy. Common purposes may include:

  • Providing your business’ services.
  • Contacting customers, addressing inquiries, and supplying requested information.
  • Advertising your business’ services.
  • Conducting market research.
  • Complying with relevant laws or governmental directives.

Collection and Storage Methods

Detail how you gather personal information. This typically includes scenarios such as when individuals inquire about your products or services, complete online forms, register as website members, or engage in conversations with your representatives.

Access and Correction

Your policy should outline how individuals can access and correct their personal information held by your business. Make it clear that individuals have the right to access and amend their data at any time, providing appropriate contact information.

Complaint Process

Provide a mechanism for individuals to lodge complaints regarding breaches of APPs. Include information on how your business will address and resolve these complaints in a reasonable timeframe.

Disclosure to Overseas Recipients

If personal information might be shared with overseas parties, specify the countries involved. This informs individuals about potential international data transfers.

Security Measures

Given the inherent insecurity of the internet, emphasise your commitment to safeguarding personal information. State that your business takes reasonable steps to protect this data from misuse, interference, loss, and unauthorised access, modification, or disclosure.

Security Disclaimer

While your business strives for data security, clarify that no data transmission over the internet can be guaranteed to be entirely secure.

By incorporating these elements into your privacy policy, you not only fulfill legal requirements but also establish a foundation of trust and transparency with your audience. Remember that a well-drafted policy is not just a compliance tool; it’s a testament to your commitment to responsible data handling.

Tailoring your privacy policy to your Australian business

While general principles guide the creation of privacy policies, each business is unique, and its policy should reflect that distinctiveness. At Progressive Legal, we take your business’s distinctive features into considerations when tailoring your policy. Here are some of these considerations:

Industry-Specific Information

If your business operates within a regulated industry, such as healthcare or finance, ensure your policy addresses industry-specific privacy requirements and standards.

Consent Mechanisms

Describe how your business obtains consent for collecting and using personal information. This might involve opt-in checkboxes on forms or clickwrap agreements for online services.

Regular Review

Commit to regularly reviewing and updating your privacy policy to remain compliant with evolving laws and business practices.

Key Takeaways

A privacy policy isn’t just a legal requirement; it’s a trust-building tool that can safeguard your reputation. Understanding Australian privacy law nuances and adhering to best practices allows you to create a policy that complies with regulations while establishing a strong foundation for ethical data handling. Whether you’re mandated by law or simply aiming to enhance transparency, having a well-drafted privacy policy is essential.

At Progressive Legal, our privacy lawyers offer expert guidance and tailored privacy policies to ensure your business achieves privacy compliance and protection.

Our services start from just $550 + GST for a fully customised privacy policy, and for GDPR compliance drafted by a qualified lawyer, it begins at $750 + GST. Contact us today on 1800 820 083 or request our expert advice below.

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