Senate committee approves mandatory data breach alerts to dismay of businesses

A Senate committee has given the green light for the upper house to pass the “privacy alerts” legislation, as the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising is pushing for more consultation.

ADMA has offered to work with the Privacy Commissioner to establish a new voluntary code, which would replace the current guidelines, as an alternative to the proposed privacy legislation reforms.

ADMA’s code would aim to define what entails a “serious data breach”, have benchmarks for different kinds of data issues including cyber-attacks and hacking, and give details of third party monitoring, auditing and enforcement.

Yesterday the Senate committee deemed the Privacy Alerts Bill, which deals with issues such as data breaches and how businesses should handle them, should be passed by the Senate despite criticisms there hasn’t been enough consultation with industry.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said in May the bill is aimed to protect consumers.

“It will introduce a new consumer privacy protection for Australians that will keep their personal information more secure in the digital age. It will also encourage agencies and private sector organisations to improve their data security practices,” he said.

If this bill is passed by the Senate, the Privacy Act will be amended to introduce mandatory data breach notification, meaning businesses will need to inform consumers of serious data breaches, or risk being subject to penalties.

Businesses will be required to prepare a detailed statement concerning the breach, provide a copy of the statement to the Privacy Commissioner and notify affected consumers by publishing a copy of the statement on its website.

Responding to the committee’s findings, the chief executive of ADMA, Jodie Sangster, told SmartCompany the reforms have been too rushed and there hasn’t been enough consultation.

“It’s coming to the end of the parliamentary sitting with a possible change of government later this year and there is a flurry of legislation where it’s trying to push through legislations which are popular with the voters, so they can show they’ve actually acted in certain areas.

“This reform has been rushed through at a rate of knot without any thought of businesses,” she says.

Sangster says businesses are already under pressure from a number of reforms going through Parliament, such as the 457 visa legislation, which will result in increased compliance costs, and now businesses “have got this on top of it all”.

“Legislation is meant to address a harm, and there is nothing which has been put forward which says this is an issue with the current guidelines, and the Privacy Commissioner has said the voluntary legislation is working.

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