This website is for use by legal professionals (lawyers and law practices) only. If the information is used incorrectly, you could risk losing money or your legal rights. If you are a member of the public looking for free advice about your legal problems please visit legalaid.vic.gov.au, or contact our Legal Help advice line on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. 

If you decide to use or rely on the information or make decisions based on the information in this website (which VLA does not recommend) VLA is not liable to you or any third party in any way for any loss, damage, costs or expenses you or they may suffer or incur as a result.

What information is protected?

Information that is protected under privacy law in Victoria.

There is no general right to personal privacy, such as the right to keep their personal lives from being made public. A person who is annoyed about their private lives being revealed, say in the media, may be able to take civil action in defamation and trespass laws. These actions are expensive to take on and the person will probably need to engage a private lawyer.

Personal information privacy

Under Victorian and Commonwealth laws, privacy protection laws control the way that governments and businesses must treat private information that they collect. A person does have the right to know how an organisation collects, holds and discloses information that it holds about a person. People are also able to view and correct information that governments and some private organisations have collected about them.

Personal information is information about a person whose identity is shown, or whose identity can be worked out from the information. This information may include a person's basic personal details, such as name, age and address, but it also includes opinions. The information does not have to be true, and it does not have to be recorded.

Different rules apply, depending on whether the information is sensitive or not.

Sensitive information

A higher standard of privacy protection may apply to information that is ‘sensitive’. This may include information or an opinion about a person’s race or ethnicity, political opinions or memberships of a political association, religious beliefs or affiliations, philosophy, union membership, sexual preferences or practices, health information, biometric or genetic information.

Biometrics is the science and technology that measures and analyses biological data. It includes fingerprints, DNA and face, voice, iris or retina recognition.

See Schedule 1— Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and s. 6—Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Particular types of information

There are laws that also cover more specific types of information:

  • health information
  • Tax File Numbers
  • credit history
  • criminal records.

See OAIC—Privacy law(opens in a new window) and Privacy and health information

More information

Legislation

Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines 'personal information'
  • Schedule 1—contains the Information Privacy Principles and defines 'sensitive information'

See Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)

  • s. 6—defines sensitive information and personal information
  • s. 6FA—defines health information

See Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Health Records Act 2001 (Vic)

  • s. 3—health information

See Health Records Act 2001 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

References

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

This Commonwealth Commissioner is responsible for making sure that Commonwealth government agencies and applicable organisations comply with the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988. This includes making sure that the Australian Privacy Principles have been followed.

See OAIC—Privacy law(opens in a new window).

Acknowledgement

Thanks to VLA's Emanuela Milosavljevic, Investigations Officer, Complaints and Statutory Compliance (CaSC) and Naomi Service, Managing Lawyer, CaSC, for their generous assistance with this topic.

Updated