Privacy high on
Increases in inquiries relating to privacy, freedom of information, complaints and review applications were features of the work of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) during 2012-13.
The Commissioner, John McMillan said that while the increased caseload created workload challenges, it was a pleasing confirmation of the assistance the OAIC was able to provide to the public, Government Agencies, and private sector organisations.
The OAIC’s annual report recorded that the Office received 1,496 privacy complaints, 148 freedom of information (FOI) complaints, and handled 18,205 phone enquiries and 3,142 written enquiries (an 11.3 per cent increase on the previous year).
The report also found the OAIC also received 507 applications for Information Commissioner review (an 11.2 per cent increase on the previous year) and 61 data breach notifications (a 33 per cent increase).
The OAIC reported high levels of activity across the FOI system. Agencies and Ministers covered by the Freedom of Information Act 1982 received 24,944 FOI requests in 2012–13, an increase of 0.7 per cent on the previous year.
The number of non-personal information requests continued to grow - by 7.1 per cent this year, and by 85.1 per cent since the 2010 FOI reforms. Agencies and Ministers decided 21,764 requests (down 2.2 per cent) and access to documents was granted, in full or in part, in 89.4 per cent of all requests determined (up 1 per cent).
Professor McMillan said the 2010 FOI Act reforms had markedly changed how Government Agencies handled information access requests.
“Embedding a pro-disclosure culture in Government will continue to throw up new challenges, particularly at a time of decreasing resources for Government Agencies and new priorities to handle,” he said.
He said a central theme in OAIC work during the year had been the importance of taking an integrated approach to information privacy, open Government and public sector information management.
“For example, in 2012–13 the OAIC was consulted by Agencies that were keen to share public sector information with other Agencies and the community while ensuring privacy was not jeopardised,” Professor McMillan said.
“In response, the OAIC issued draft guidance on the de-identification of data that emphasised the need to take a balanced approach to sharing data while safeguarding privacy.”
He expected effective information management would continue to be a lively challenge across Government and the private sector in 2013–14.
“The OAIC will continue to advocate that Australia join the international Open Government Partnership and develop a national action plan for information transparency and management.” Professor McMillan said.
The full OAIC annual report can be viewed at this PS News link.
Edition 386, 5 November 2013