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About privacy

What is privacy?

There is no simple definition of privacy. It can mean:

  • the right to a sense of personal freedom
  • the right to have information about oneself used fairly
  • and a 'right to be able to be left alone', in other words to be able to determine what it is about ourselves that we are prepared to share.

Privacy requires a fair use of personal information - that is any information or opinions about an identifiable person.

What is personal information?

Section 4(1) of the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) (PPIP Act) defines personal information as:

‘… information or an opinion (including information or an opinion forming part of a database and whether or not recorded in a material form) about an individual whose identity is apparent or can reasonably be ascertained from the information or opinion.’

Section 4(3) also defines what is not personal information. This includes but is not limited to:

  • information about an individual who has been dead for more than 30 years
  • information about an individual that is contained in a publicly available publication
  • information or an opinion about an individual’s suitability for appointment or employment as a public sector official.

What is health information?

Section 6 of the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW) (HRIP Act) defines health information as:

(a) ‘personal information that is information or an opinion about:

  • (i) the physical or mental health or a disability (at any time) of an individual, or
  • (ii) an individual's express wishes about the future provision of health services to him or her, or
  • (iii) a health service provided, or to be provided, to an individual, or

(b) other personal information collected to provide, or in providing, a health service, or

(c) other personal information about an individual collected in connection with the donation, or intended donation, of an individual's body parts, organs or body substances, or

(d) other personal information that is genetic information about an individual arising from a health service provided to the individual in a form that is or could be predictive of the health (at any time) of the individual or of any sibling, relative or descendant of the individual.’

The Information Privacy Princples (IPPS) and Health Privacy Principles (HPPS) 

The 12 Information Protection Principles (IPPs) are the key to the (PPIP Act). They are legal obligations which NSW government agencies, statutory bodies and local councils must abide by when they collect, store, use and disclose personal information.

The 15 Health Privacy Principles (HPPs) are the key to the (HRIP Act). They are legal obligations which NSW public sector agencies and private sector organisations must abide by when they collect, hold, use and disclose a person’s health information.

View the 12 Information Protection Principles (IPPs) - explained for members of the public
View the 12 Information Protection Principles (IPPs) - explained for the public sector
View the 15 Health Privacy Principles (HPPs) - explained for members of the public
View the 15 Health Privacy Principles (HPPs) - guidance for agencies and organisations