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Your right to privacy

What is privacy

The legislation under which the department operates authorises the collection of personal information in order to provide you (and, where relevant, third parties) with services and to ensure that you are paid correctly and receive the services to which you are entitled. You have a right to have your personal information kept private. The department is bound by strict confidentiality and secrecy provisions in social security, families, health, child support and disability services law. These provisions limit how the department uses your information and when and to whom it can be released. 

Your right to privacy

The department is also covered by the Privacy Act 1988 (the Privacy Act). The Privacy Act contains eleven Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) which legislate the way the department collects, stores, provides access to, uses and discloses personal information. The Privacy Act provides you with a number of rights, including:

  • you must be told why your personal information is being collected and whether it can be given to anyone else
  • your personal information can only be collected for a lawful purpose
  • you have the right to see what information is held about you and have it corrected if it is incorrect, out of date or incomplete (the Freedom of Information Act 1982 also covers this)
  • you have the right to have your personal information stored securely and protected from unauthorised access or misuse
  • you have the right to know how your personal information will be used
  • if you believe your privacy has been infringed you can make a complaint to the department.

Tax File Numbers

If you give us your Tax File Number (TFN), we have an obligation to keep that information secure. Due to the sensitivity the department places on TFNs and the legal restraints on their use and disclosure, if you lose your TFN the department will not be able to provide it to you. In these circumstances you will have to ask the Australian Taxation Office for a copy of it. The department can only provide TFNs under strict conditions as authorised or required by law. In limited circumstances, the Australian Taxation Commissioner can be required by law to provide your TFN to the department.

Data-matching use of Tax File Numbers

The department is authorised to use TFN to facilitate the administration of social security, student assistance, youth allowance, child support and data-matching law. This can include using data to check the entitlements of people applying for services and payments. The Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990 authorises certain agencies to compare the personal information they hold, including the TFNs of an individual, to ensure that tax, pensions and other payments are being paid correctly.

Collection of information

When we collect your personal information it must be for the purpose of administering one or more of the department’s payments and/or services. The authority provided by each service’s legislation allows us by law to collect your personal information.

In addition to requesting information from you, the department may also obtain information about you and your family from other government agencies and third parties. Information collected from other government agencies about you is different for each service.

Use of information

Your personal information will not be used for any purpose other than that for which it was collected unless:

  • it is authorised or required by law
  • you have consented to the use

or

  • the use meets one of the other exceptions in the IPPs.

When your personal information is collected from you, you will be advised of its intended use at the point of collection. Your information may also be used by other services within the department, as authorised by Commonwealth law.

Disclosure of information

Your personal information will not be disclosed to any person, body or agency (other than the individual concerned) unless:

  • you give us permission
  • it is authorised or required by law

or

  • it meets one of the other exceptions in the IPPs.

From time to time it may be necessary to disclose your personal information to third parties if it is relevant. The circumstances surrounding why, who and when your information may be disclosed is informed by the legislation covering the service you are receiving . 

The department may also disclose your information in the process of seeking information, to ensure it collects information about the correct individual.

More information

If you are concerned about how the department has collected or managed your personal information, please call Customer Relations on 1800 050 004 or the TTY phone on 1800 000 567.

For more information about general privacy, you can go to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) website. OAIC can be contacted via their web site or by telephoning 1300 363 992.

If you are not satisfied with how the department has handled your privacy concerns you can also contact the OAIC directly. The OAIC is independent of the department and has the power to investigate complaints about possible interferences with your privacy. Please note that it is usually best to contact the department first. While it is possible for the first contact to be with the OAIC, they will generally ask the department to conduct its own inquiry first and pass any findings on to the OAIC.