Preparation for the Privacy Act should begin now: Gartner

Preparation for the Privacy Act should begin now: Gartner

Analyst recommends that local companies start getting ready to comply with next year’s Privacy Amendment Act

There are some things that organisations need to do now to prepare for updated privacy landscape next year, according to Gartner research director, Rob McMillan.

Since the Australian Government has passed the Privacy Amendment Act 2012, companies will have to comply with these new and complex privacy concepts from March next year.

For one, in the event of a significant complaint, an organisation may be subjected to an investigation and penalty if they are unable to quickly demonstrate a program for compliance to the act.

As for how businesses can prepare for this change, McMillan said it is important to understand the chain of accountability.

“For heavily outsourced organisations, this should not come as a great surprise,” he said.

“They should have already been doing this, and a lot of them have been.”

Another important measure is to know where the data covered in the privacy act and how to protect it.

“This is a similar approach to what has been around for ages, where you know where it lives, how to protect it, and how to track it,” McMillan said.

Since there is a level of complexity associated with such a step such, McMillan said it is something that needs to be done now.

“We can make some predictions there, but it will be difficult to predictions exactly how that is going to play out over a decade,” he said.

McMillan adds that it is not easy to say what a company could be doing now when the implications are not yet fully understood.

For that reason, he recommends companies carry out measures that are both doable now and obvious.

Ability to change

A hurdle to compliance to the act that McMillan identifies is the culture of privacy in the organisation.

“It might not always be fashionable to talk about it, but the way you will be able to deal with some of these complex and subtle issues in the future will depend on the willingness of the individuals in the organisation to identify these problems before or as they occur, and then figure out how to deal with them,” he said.

If the issues are subtle and complex, McMillan said the solution in a lot of cases may not be.

“This culture of what taking privacy seriously entails is important, and if you have read about culture change, it is not an easy thing to shift overnight,” he said.

“They tend to be long term programs that require constant maintenance.”

Gartner recently carried out market research on this topic and found that privacy was in the top three focus areas in Australia, making a higher priority that it has ever been before.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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