Privacy Commissioner renews push for notification of data breaches

Attorney General to consider final report

Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, today renewed her call for the compulsory notification of data security breaches by Australian organizations.

Frustrated by by continuing data breaches, Curtis said organizations need to be forced into securing data and their databases.

"While reporting would need to be proportional to the severity of the breach, it would provide organisations with a strong market incentive to adequately secure their databases," Curtis said.

"It would also give people an opportunity to take any necessary steps to protect their personal information."

Her call for mandatory reporting is made in a 786-page submission by the Office to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) in response to its Discussion Paper 72: "Review of Australian Privacy Law".

Other recommendations in the submission include creating codes for specific concerns that can be applied in addition to uniform privacy principles, in addition to minimising exemptions from the Privacy Act.

Curtis wants more stringent requirements for the health sector and credit reporting.

Another recommendation is the introduction of audits.

She said a qualified audit power would allow the Office to conduct privacy performance assessments of private sector organisations for compliance in certain circumstances.

A final report responding to the discussion paper will be sent to the Federal Attorney General in coming months for consideration.

Gartner's vice president of research, Rich Mogull, said legislative protection in Australia is critical.

Mogull said the introduction of disclosure laws in the US have been the biggest single driver in improving the IT security landscape.

He said 40 states in the US now have data breach disclosure laws.

Research shows that more than two-thirds of Australian organizations experience six losses of sensitive data each year.

A report from the IT Policy Compliance Group found these breaches reportedly include customer, financial, corporate employee and IT security data which is stolen, leaked or inappropriately destroyed.

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