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Privacy: A year in review

As we approach the end of 2018, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on what has certainly been a big year for privacy and for OVIC.

Throughout the year, we have continued to promote an awareness of privacy, advocated for strong privacy protections in legislative and policy reform, and supported agencies to uphold their obligations under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. Here’s a quick summary of some of the things we’ve done in the privacy space and key learnings from 2018.

Public forums

Our privacy forums have been a big success this year, covering a range of different topics with expert guest speakers, and attracting a wide audience both in person and online.

  • Encryption and privacy: our first forum for the year explored the topical – and controversial – issue of encryption, and its relationship to information privacy and data security. Guest speakers discussed what encryption is, how it’s used as a tool for enhancing information security, and the need for appropriate governance, policies, and procedures. A key message throughout this discussion was that while encryption is a useful and powerful tool, it should not be seen as a panacea to modern privacy and data security issues. A recap of this event is available here.
  • Debate: privacy and technology are inherently incompatible: our second public forum was held during Privacy Awareness Week 2018, in the form of a debate. We had guest speakers from different backgrounds arguing for the affirmative and negative in what was a robust and very engaging discussion. Both sides made very convincing and insightful arguments, with the debate ultimately ending in a tie. Click here to read more.
  • Consent and privacy: this forum explored the topic of consent and its relationship to privacy in different contexts. Some of the key takeaways from this discussion included the importance of transparency to enable individuals to make informed choices, and that consent should be an ongoing conversation between the organisation and the individual, rather than a set-and-forget exercise. Read the event recap here.
  • Data ethics: joined by Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner in celebration of International Human Rights Day, our last forum for the year explored the concept of data ethics. Our guest speakers spoke about the benefits and challenges of the uses of data, the implications on our human rights, and the role of data ethics in government. The livestream recording of the forum is available for viewing here.

Privacy Awareness Week 2018

Privacy Awareness Week (PAW) is always a big event for us at OVIC. This year, the theme was Privacy: From principles to practice. To celebrate PAW we held a number of events, including an official launch, a debate, and workshops on de-identification and data breaches.

We also held a creativity competition, asking the public to put a creative spin on privacy (you can see the winning entries here), and developed posters to promote PAW, containing some great tips in keeping with the theme (available for download here). We also published a blog series, with a new post for each day of PAW covering different topics from privacy impact assessments, to effectively communicating about privacy.

Following on from the success of this year’s PAW, we’re hoping for a bigger and better one in 2019.


This year we published research papers on two very pertinent topics: de-identification and artificial intelligence (AI). Our de-identification paper was prepared by the University of Melbourne, and explains what de-identification is, some key techniques, and the risks of releasing de-identified unit-level record data in an open data context. OVIC’s AI issues paper provides a high-level introduction to AI and an overview of some of the challenges and benefits it presents to privacy. OVIC will continue to work on AI projects throughout 2019.

In addition to these two significant resources we also published a range of other guidance materials, including an information sheet on the hot topic of the year, the GDPR.

… and everything else!

From making submissions to consultations, to the development of a privacy awareness postcard for young people (led by OVIC’s Youth Advisory Group), the establishment of the Victorian Privacy Network and the development of a privacy training program, OVIC has certainly had a very busy year in the privacy space. We’ve also continued to assist members of the public to understand their privacy rights and guide organisations in their application of the Information Privacy Principles.

The other sides of OVIC – public access and information security – have been as equally busy. To find out more about what OVIC has been doing in these areas, read Information Commissioner Sven Bluemmel’s keynote speech given at the Leo Cussen Privacy and FOI Conference on 7 December 2018, in which he looks back on OVIC’s first year of operation. Our 2017-18 Annual Report also provides a detailed overview of our office’s work over the last year.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy new year. See you in 2019!

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