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PAW blog series: Protecting privacy is everyone’s responsibility

This blog post is written by Sven Bluemmel, Information Commissioner

Privacy Awareness Week

Privacy Awareness Week, or PAW, began as an initiative of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities back in 2006.  PAW aims to promote the importance of privacy and raise awareness of privacy issues generally. Participating authorities, including the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC), mark Privacy Awareness Week through various events, activities and resources.

Today marks the first day of Privacy Awareness Week for this year, which runs from 13 May – 17 May 2019. Our theme for this year is Protecting privacy is everyone’s responsibility and it is one that I strongly encourage Victorian public sector organisations and the broader community alike to embrace.

Privacy is a team effort – it shouldn’t be the responsibility of an organisation’s Privacy Officer or unit alone. This is an important message that my colleagues and I regularly promote.

Protecting privacy is everyone’s responsibility

We have witnessed firsthand the effect when our personal information is collected, used, shared and handled in ways that do not align with public expectations. Organisations incur financial and reputational damage, they lose public trust and confidence. Organisations’ social licence to collect and use our information diminishes.

The impact on individuals must be front and centre in our minds. Those of us dealing with personal information should always come back to the individual and the protection of their privacy rights, enshrined not only in Victoria’s Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 but also the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic).

However, it’s all too easy for us as individuals and private citizens to forget about the importance of taking steps to protect our own privacy, and we are sometimes all too willing to give up our personal information without considering the possible repercussions, in exchange for a service, or some other convenience or benefit. We also need to be aware of the impact that our choices can have on the privacy of others.

The importance of protecting privacy will only continue to grow as technology advances in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things, and big data amongst others, and as we grapple with issues such as consent, AI ethics, and AI-informed decision making.

How you can be involved

I encourage everyone to get involved by participating in the various events hosted by OVIC or within your organisation.

OVIC’s events include a seminar on responding to data breaches and a public forum featuring guest speakers on the topic of privacy governance. These events will be livestreamed via Periscope, with a link to the video posted on OVIC’s Twitter page.

Co-hosted by the University of Melbourne and OVIC are also two further events, ‘Ethics, AI and unintended consequences’ and ‘Consumer privacy post Cambridge Analytica’.

We have also developed a Privacy Awareness Starter Pack containing a range of resources for organisations to download and use, including posters, tip sheets, and online materials, all in line with the theme Protecting privacy is everyone’s responsibility.

I wish you all a happy Privacy Awareness Week, and I look forward to seeing organisations across the Victorian public sector celebrate this exciting initiative.

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