Thursday, February 23, 2017

Is privacy dead? New laws suggest not.

Privacy is back in the spotlight. Rigorous new reforms were announced last week that will substantially raise the bar for organisations to protect client data and personal information.

On 13 February 2017, the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill 2016 was passed, and is set to come into effect within 12 months. Organisations now have a duty by law, to notify the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and the individual, should 
a data breach occur.

With hefty fines of up to $360,000 for individuals and $1.8 million for organisations, it is clear these new laws are being introduced to erode poor data handling practices. Privacy is still alive and well.

The latest national tenancy survey highlighted that privacy is also a hot topic in real estate. The results received from tenants across the country showed that 60% of renters consider the amount of information they are forced to divulge about themselves is 'excessive'. 45% believe their confidential information is not being handled correctly by their Agent*.

These numbers are staggering.
In an era where we see 500,000 new users to Facebook daily, 40 billion photos shared on Instagram, and 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every hour, we are in a strange environment where we value our privacy, but websites and social media platforms are encouraging us to share... everything.

In the professional scene however, there are a very different set of rules. These new reforms show that protecting client information is essential.

Property Managers receive a range of personal details on tenant applications, such as contact details, income statements and 100 points of ID - these are all core steps in the application process. To do our job properly, we need to ensure tenants answer the correct questions and this can be verified, to help minimise risk to our landlords. But that's just one side of the coin.

The second side is taking steps to protect this important information. In our business, we are using technology to assist in this process. In the digital era we live in, we know that handling client information correctly is fundamental for businesses now more than ever.

Real Estate Agents are responsible for a range of confidential information (for both rental and sales) and we believe this should be handled with the utmost care. 

While social media is becoming a part of our daily lives more and more, the need to protect client data is certainly not dead. 

*Survey completed by the National Association of Tenants' Organisations, National Shelter and Choice (2016)

Suzannah Toop

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