Marketers deliver warning on breach notification

Australia’s peak digital marketing industry body has warned that the federal government’s proposed breach notification laws will trigger to a flood of over reporting that will overwhelm consumers.

The Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) argued that ad hoc components of the draft legislation released last week allow for additional regulations that aren’t required to meet a “serious harm” test.

ADMA’s regulatory affairs chief Jeannette Scott argued that removing the test could lead to notifications for privacy breaches concerning information unlikely to damage consumers personally or financially. For instance, she said, such regulations might not distinguish between breaches that lead to the exposure of information about when an individual has purchased cold tablets and their medical records.

“If the whole reason for this was to deal with serious data breaches that presented a real risk of serious harm, then why do you then dispense with that test? The privacy act already affords the highest level of privacy protection to any personal information, which is classified in the act as personal information,” she said.

“There are already mandatory breach notifications related to health records,” she added.

More broadly the ADMA believes that the new laws are unwarranted and that uncertainty around the meaning of “serious harm” in the draft legislation would lead to excessive breach reporting if passed in its current form.

Ms Scott said that the notices would become “white noise” that consumers may ignore and lead to inaction on serious breaches.

“These notifications are rightly designed to give consumers an opportunity to mitigate risk if there information has been subject to a data breach but if these notices came through as a matter of course and they’re not actually serious then consumers are going to turn off to them,” she said.

ADMA wants to the bill scrapped but that seems unlikely given that Acting Federal Privacy Commissioner Tim Pilgrim – a long-time champion of the laws – has welcomed them.

In a statement timed to coincide with the release of the draft exposure bill, Mr Pilgrim said:

“Data breach notification can be an important mitigation strategy in the event of a serious data breach. Notification enables people affected by a breach to take steps to protect their personal information; such as cancelling credit cards or updating log-ins with service providers. A mandatory notification scheme will provide confidence to all Australians that, in the event of a serious data breach, they will be given the opportunity to manage their personal information accordingly”.

The breach notification laws were also a precondition of the federal government’s mandatory data retention bill passed in March.

The federal government has invited comment on the draft bill. Submissions close March 4, 2016.

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