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Personal information meaning for privacy laws
15 January 2020
Understanding the meaning of personal information is important so you can comply with privacy laws.
Below is a simple guide.
Guiding principle for uncertainty
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.
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:
- whether the information or opinion is true or not; and
- 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:
- About an identified individual - for example, person is the subject matter of the information or opinion;
- About an individual that’s reasonably identifiable.
Examples of personal information
Below are some 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.