The Albanese government is considering a proposal that would grant Australians greater control over their personal information, including the ability to opt out of targeted ads, erase their data, and sue for serious privacy breaches. The proposal was developed by the Attorney General’s Department, which conducted a review of the Privacy Act, calling for the expansion of its remit to small businesses and the addition of new safeguards for the use of data by political parties.
The review proposes that the Privacy Act should include a new overarching requirement that the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information must be fair and reasonable in the circumstances. It also recommends that Australians should have individual rights modelled on the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), including the right to object to the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information, the right to request erasure of personal information, and the right to de-index online search results containing sensitive information, excessive detail, or inaccurate or misleading information.
The review suggests that consent should be required for the collection and use of precise geolocation tracking data. It also proposes new limits on targeted advertising, including the prohibition of targeting to a child except where it is in their “best interests,” and the provision of an “unqualified right to opt-out” of targeted ads and the disclosure of personal information for direct marketing purposes.
The review calls for increased protections for personal information under the Act, including the abolition of the exemption for small businesses, citing community expectations that if small businesses are provided with personal information, they will keep it safe. The report also proposes the creation of a right to sue for “serious invasions of privacy,” which was also recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2014.
The proposal has received support from industry, including the Digital Industry Group Inc, whose members include Google, Apple, Meta, Twitter, and TikTok, which has expressed support for aligning Australia’s law with the GDPR. However, media companies have expressed concerns that a right to sue for privacy breaches could limit freedom of the press.
The Albanese government is seeking feedback on the 116 proposals in the report before deciding what further steps to take.