This video is about how general common law principles of confidentiality provide guidelines as to how our personal information is protected.
Transcript of Video
Sarah (Lawyer): When we, as individuals, engage with an organisation, whether it be a bank, a doctor or a government agency, we expect that the personal information that we give will be confidential and be used for the purpose for which we gave it.
The Privacy Act regulates how organisations collect, store, use and disclose personal information contained in records. But general common law principles of confidentiality provide guidelines as to how our personal information is protected.
17 y.o. Male: I’ve heard about the Privacy Act but I’m not sure what it means! Who does it apply to?
Sarah: The Privacy Act protects the personal information of any individual person contained in a record. There are a number of Privacy Principles which detail how your personal information can be collected, used and disclosed. Large organisations, government agencies and any private organisation which collects health information MUST comply with the Privacy Principles.
16 y.o. Female: I’m 16 years old and I’ve decided to go on the pill. I’m worried the doctor might tell my parents about my decision.
Sarah: There is no age limit set in the legislation as to when an individual can make their own decisions about his or her personal information. A young person is capable of giving his or her informed consent for medical treatment when he or she achieves a sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him to fully understand what is proposed. Similarly, when a young person is capable of making their own decisions regarding their privacy, they should be allowed to do so.
But if a health service provider doesn’t think you’re old enough, or sufficiently mature enough to understand what is happening to you, then they can discuss your situation with a parent.
Teenage Male: I’ve had some personal problems at school and I’ve been talking to the student counsellor. Now I’m worried that my parents and teachers might find out about my problems.
Sarah: Counsellors are bound by a Code of Ethics which sets out that they must maintain the confidentiality of discussions that they have with their clients. However, where your safety is at risk, or in other exceptional circumstances, a counsellor may be able to breach that confidentiality. The Privacy Act also provides for exceptional circumstances where your consent is not required to disclose personal information.
Mature Male: At the bank the other day, the manager started discussing a client's bad debt problems with the teller who was serving me. The client, Mrs Smith, is a friend of my Mum's, and was sitting in the manager's office about 4 feet away. That sounds like a breach of privacy to me.
Sarah: The bank is a large organisation which must comply with the Privacy Principles in safeguarding against inappropriate disclosures. The bank manager should not be discussing personal information of customers in front of other customers. Mrs. Smith’s privacy has been breached. She must first make a complaint to the bank and then, if there is no resolution, a complaint to the Office of Australian Information Commissioner.
Young Adult Female: A friend of mine, Rachel, works for an insurance company. At the pub on a Friday night, I told her about my neighbour who had made a false complaint to the police, so he could claim insurance. On Monday, Rachel receives my neighbour's claim and denies the payout citing fraud. Is Rachel allowed to do that?
Sarah: Rachel has collected and used information obtained by inappropriate means. She has not verified whether the information she has collected, used and relied upon is true. Whilst an insurance company can do their own investigation without your consent, they must only collect information by legitimate means. The use of the information obtained at the pub breaches the Privacy Principles concerning collection of personal information.
Sarah: This is a brief overview of some really important facts that you need to know when it comes to protecting privacy. But sometimes things go wrong and people’s private information gets into the wrong hands. If this happens, you should contact the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania for advice on 1300 366 611.
It’s a free service and most importantly, we’ll make sure your privacy is protected.