Personal information meaning for privacy laws
Online Business

Personal information meaning for privacy laws

Photo by Dayne Topkin

Personal information meaning for privacy laws

28 January 2021

Your business privacy policy allows you to explain what, how and why you are collecting certain personal information. 

Also, your privacy policy gives peace of mind to the people you are collecting information from, that their personal information will be handled with care. 

Understanding the meaning of personal information is important so you can comply with privacy laws. 

Below is a simple guide. 

Guiding principle when in doubt

The Office of the Australian information Commissioner (OAIC) recommends that if you are unsure if information is personal to err on the side of caution by treating the information as personal and handling it that way.

I also recommend that if you are collecting information you think may be personal, that you include this information and the reason you are collecting it in your privacy policy.

Personal information meaning

Below is the meaning of personal information. 

Information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable:

  1. whether the information or opinion is true or not; and
  2. whether the information or opinion is recorded in a material form or not.

Within the definition, there is no mention of technology to allow for changes in the way information is handled over time.

Personal information types

The information below is personal information under the Privacy Act. 

  • sensitive information (includes information or opinion about an individual’s racial or ethnic origin, political opinion, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or criminal record, provided the information or opinion otherwise meets the definition of personal information)
  • health information (which is also ‘sensitive information’)
  • credit information
  • employee record information, and
  • tax file number information

Also, even if some information is not classified as personal under the Privacy Act, it may be under other legislation like the Telecommunications Act 1979 (Cth). 

Personal information test 

Personal information must be: 

  1. About an identified individual - for example, person is the subject matter of the information or opinion;
  1. About an individual that’s reasonably identifiable. 

Examples of personal information 

Below are some practical examples of personal information from the Office of Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website: 

  • customer contact file with their name, email 
  • school newsletter with details about students competing in a sports event.

Do you have questions or comments personal information? Be sure to leave them below. 

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Tips to help you stop startup overwhelm for an online business_
Online Business

Tips to help you stop startup overwhelm for your online business

5 tips to help you stop startup overwhelm for your online business

Updated: 2 December 2019

Here’s a concise guide to help you navigate your startup tasks and stop overwhelm when setting up your online business. 

Here's the key thing to know upfront, you can stop any overwhelm about your legals in general because you can usually phase out your legals; you don't have to pay for them in one go or spend time with your lawyer customising all of them all at once in those busy early days. 

Focussing on your key tasks will help you stop overwhelm. So, here’s what you need to prioritise: 

1. Structure and business name setup 

Structure - You need a business structure - you have the choice of company, sole trader, partnership and trust; and 

Business name - You’ll need to register your business name if you are going to use a trading name other than your legal entity’s name

2. Your website legals

Terms and conditions and a privacy policy are important to protect your online business.

Terms and conditions

Your terms and conditions will cover items like: 

  • Disclaimers to limit your business’s liability 
  • Hacks 
  • Intellectual property - copyright, trademarks
  • Payment processes
  • Returns
  • Disputes 
  • Refusing service.
Privacy policy

Your privacy policy should be tailored to cover all the personal information that you are collecting on your website.

The information you are collecting might be different to another business, so keep this in mind when assessing the value of customised legals.

And, if you are collecting information from customers or even prospective customers or subscribers that are living in the European Union - in this case, you’ll need a GDPR compliant policy. 

3. Financials

Good reporting systems will allow you to store data about your sales and feed into a good financial reporting system.

For example, if you are using shopify, you may want to have some way to track your sales revenue through a linked accounting system like xero or one of the others shopify allows you to link up to.

Also, ideally, you'll want to see your financials on the go, cloud based providers allow you to do this. 

4. Workers

If you have workers completing work for you, you’ll need to get an employee or contractor agreement. 

Being 100% clear on the employment relationship upfront is essential. You don’t want a contractor thinking they are an employee or vice versa because you want to avoid being liable for worker entitlements or a fair work claim for sham contracting. 

5. Advice

The above list is a simple guide for most startup online businesses. As always, get advice if you are in doubt.

Accountants and lawyers are especially important for helping you get setup correctly and focus your attention on the important tasks.

I wish you every success in your business ventures! 


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