Coherent regulation best for digital communications privacy | ACMA

Coherent regulation best for digital communications privacy

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ACMA media release MR46/2013 - 21 June

Fewer than 40 per cent of Australians are confident that website privacy settings protect their digital information, according to a new Australian Communications and Media Authority paper, Privacy and personal data- Emerging issues in media and Communications, Occasional paper 4 (Word | PDF).

‘Privacy remains an enduring concept in the media and communications environment,’ said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman. ‘And as several recent events have demonstrated, citizens remain highly sensitive to intrusions on their privacy and the mishandling of their personal data – perhaps more so.’

In this, the final in a series of four occasional papers addressing various emerging issues in contemporary communications and media, the ACMA discusses the impact of the emerging information economy on digital citizens’ privacy and the need for a coherent framework within which new privacy safeguards can be developed.

‘Personal information has been referred to as the new oil or currency of the information economy with citizens undertaking an increasing range of social and economic activities online,’ Mr Chapman said. ‘Not all of this data is protected by existing privacy safeguards, most of which were developed for a pre-information economy.’

‘Effective protection of personal data in the digital economy is likely to require a mix of regulatory and non-regulatory measures that are tailored to the specific contexts in which privacy concerns arise. However, Australian citizens and industry would benefit from a coherent regulatory framework which facilitates logical and predictable privacy outcomes.’

The ACMA is hosting a Citizen conversation on broadcasting privacy next Tuesday, 25 June, as part of its Contemporary community safeguards inquiry.

Some ways that Australians are dealing with their personal information include:

  • almost one-half will provide a site with inaccurate personal information to an online site in order to protect their privacy; while
  • almost 90 per cent would stop using a site that inadvertently disclosed their credit card details.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Louise Tapsell, (02) 9334 7954 or


In this series of occasional papers, the ACMA is examining issues in contemporary communications and media. This is an integral part of the ACMA’s regulatory role in facilitating innovative services in the Australian market, as well as assisting individual citizens to positively manage their communications and media experience.

Developments in consumer and industrial devices and the networks that connect them are enabling near-continuous collection of personal and behavioural data. A variety of software applications—including social networking sites, mobile device apps and online behaviour tracking ‘cookies’—are exploiting these device capabilities and generating substantial volumes of rich data about citizens’ social and economic activities – both online and offline.

Organisations are increasingly looking to personal and behavioural data for insights that will drive more effective marketing practices and improve service delivery efficiency. In combination, these developments have created a personal data environment that is vastly different from that which characterised the pre-digital economy. 

To date, personal data protection issues have been addressed by a mix of measures administered by a number of different bodies. Alongside the national privacy framework administered by the Attorney-General’s Department and Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), the ACMA administers a range of privacy safeguards specific to media and communications-related matters. The establishment of these measures predates the digital services that now underpin many citizens’ social and economic interactions (including the growing value of internet-based activity). 

The Attorney-General has recently announced that the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) will undertake a further review of privacy safeguards, building on recent reforms that will take effect from March 2014. The inquiry should inform development of a coherent regulatory framework in which solutions can be tailored to address specific privacy risks. Among other things, such a framework could reflect the evolving definition of personal data.

Other papers in the series look at:

Mobile applications

Near Field Communications
The cloud – services, computing and digital data

Last updated: 21 July 2016