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PAW blog series 2019: Protecting privacy is everyone’s responsibility… but why?

Privacy Awareness Week, or ‘PAW’ as we here at the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) fondly call it, is an initiative started by the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities in 2006 to promote and raise awareness of privacy within the public sector and broader community. This year, the PAW theme is ‘Protecting privacy is everyone’s responsibility’.

This theme highlights how everyone has a role to play in protecting privacy, from front line staff to the executive — and so too do members of the public. But why do we need to protect privacy in the first place? Let’s look at some of the reasons why.

A human right…

First, privacy is a human right. A right to privacy is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Closer to home, a right to privacy is included in Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.

The right to privacy is important – it enables individuals to freely develop their personality and identity, and the ability to participate in political, economic, social and cultural life. Privacy is also an enabling right. This means that it’s important for the realisation of other human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression.

It’s a legal requirement…

Here in Australia, there are different laws that protect information privacy (being able to control what happens to your personal information). At a federal level we have the Privacy Act 1988, and most states have their own state privacy laws. In Victoria, public sector organisations have a legal obligation to protect privacy under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. The fact that we have laws to protect privacy shows that parliament has decided privacy is something we should protect.


As members of the public, we are more likely to trust organisations that value and protect our privacy. A respect for privacy builds and maintains strong relationships between individuals and organisations; more importantly, a commitment to protecting personal information can help lessen the harm that may come to individuals from the misuse or mishandling of their information.

Celebrate with us

For this year’s PAW, we invite Victorian public sector organisations and members of the public alike to raise awareness of privacy and celebrate with us. We’re hosting a number of events this week, from a seminar on data breaches to a public forum on privacy governance, both of which we will be livestreaming via our Twitter page. OVIC is also co-hosting two events with the University of Melbourne, on topical themes. More information on all of these events is available on our website.

We’ve also developed a PAW Starter Pack containing posters and tip sheets, as well as online materials. We encourage you to use these resources or your own to start a conversation about privacy.

Lastly… happy PAW 2019!

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