Right to anonymity under new laws

New privacy laws regulate how personal information is handled
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01.Privacy legislation boost

Sweeping new privacy laws regulate personal information.

New privacy laws have given Australians the right to remain anonymous or to use a pseudonym when dealing with government agencies, private health providers, and organisations with a turnover of more than $3 million a year.

This reform is one of many included in the sweeping new privacy laws which took effect from 12 March. The laws regulate how government agencies and certain businesses handle personal information.

This includes the right to “dealing anonymously or by pseudonym”. However this right will not apply in circumstances where providing identification is required by law (for example calling up to discuss a personal account with your bank) or where it is “impractical” (for example ordering a book form Amazon will require you give an address for delivery). 

Australians more concerned about privacy 

A survey released in October 2013 by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner showed that privacy is a major concern for Australians. It found that 48% believe that online services now pose the greatest risk to privacy. Social media was one of the least trusted services, with only 9% saying that social media websites are trustworthy in protecting privacy.

Our concern with privacy is affecting our behaviour. Just over 60% of Australians have decided to not deal with an organisation because of privacy concerns (up from just over 40% in 2007), according to the survey.

Anonymity matters 

Companies are able to harvest huge amounts of data from our various activities online. For this reason anonymity can be a great way to keep that personal information, well, personal. 

However many popular websites have restrictions on anonymity. Facebook, for example, requires people to use their ‘real name’ while Google + has restrictions on what names people can use. 

Google caused controversy when it made it harder to remain anonymous on YouTube, which proved to be unpopular with the site’s vocal user community. 



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