Open plan shopfronts – are you breaching your privacy obligations?

Posted on March 21st, 2017

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Open Plan Shopfronts Breach Privacy ObligationsOpen plan shopfronts are fast becoming the way of the future. Many banks, telco companies and insurance companies are already moving to a more open plan style of shopfront.

While this may be inviting to customers, it could mean you are risking a breach of your obligations under the Australian Privacy Principles.

The Australian Privacy Principles contain certain obligations in relation to personal information and its use, disclosure and protection. These principles apply to certain organisations, including government bodies and private organisations with a turnover of more than $3 million.

In a recent case, NRMA was held to have breached its privacy obligations when a staff member turned their computer monitor around showing information to a customer’s spouse and daughter. Not only could the spouse and daughter see the information, but potentially other customers in the room. Even though the customer’s spouse had some joint policies with the customer, the computer screen revealed details of sole policies in her sole name also. It was held that NRMA breached its privacy obligations by disclosing customer details to the spouse, daughter and other potential customers when turning the computer screen around. It was also a breach of NRMA’s privacy obligations when the staff member discussed with the spouse, details of the car insurance policy in the customer’s sole name. NRMA was ordered to provide an apology to the customer and pay her damages of $2,000.00.

This case highlights that open plan shopfronts need to be used carefully and staff need to be trained properly to understand a business’ privacy obligations. Having computer screens which may be viewed by other customers in the room could be a breach of your privacy obligations if customers’ information is displayed on the screen.

Every business should carefully consider whether its practices comply with privacy laws.

Lana Black is a Solicitor at Mullane & Lindsay and practises primarily in residential and commercial property transactions and estate planning and administration.  If you require any assistance in this area please contact Lana Black to arrange a consultation or contact our Newcastle office.

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