Australia Privacy Act vs GDPR: How Do They Differ?

australia privacy act vs gdpr

When you run a business, keeping up with rules about personal information can be tricky, especially if you have customers worldwide. This guide will cover the Australia Privacy Act vs GDPR side by side to see what they require from businesses.

Both are about keeping consumers' details safe, but they have their own ways of doing it. In this article, we'll walk you through what's the same and what's different between these two sets of rules.

We'll talk about how they impact the way your business looks after customer data and what you need to do to stay on the right side of the law. Whether you're a business owner or just interested in keeping data safe, you'll find out what you need to know right here.

Let's dive in and make sense of these important privacy laws.

Key Takeaways

  • The Australia Privacy Act and GDPR put a strong emphasis on care for data subject rights and personal information privacy. No matter where a business is located, it must handle customer data with care and respect.
  • Businesses in Australia or those engaging with European consumers must grasp the nuances of GDPR compliance to ensure they're compliant. The Privacy Act and GDPR aren't the same thing, so you must know what's what to stay on the right side of the rules.
  • Transparency in data privacy is not just a courtesy; it's a fundamental requirement under both the Australia Privacy Act and GDPR. Both laws want businesses to be clear with people about what's happening with their information.

What is the Australia Privacy Act?

The Australia Privacy Act is a big deal when it comes to keeping personal information safe. This compliance framework started way back in 1988 and has been the main rulebook for how businesses need to handle people's private data ever since.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is the entity that is enforcing this act. They make sure everyone's playing by the rules.

This act is not for every single business out there. It's mainly for bigger ones that make more than 3 million dollars a year and some smaller ones that deal with health, credit reporting, or personal information trading. If you're running a business, it's smart to check if this act applies to you.

So what's so important about this act anyhow? Well, it lays out some clear-cut rules called Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) that tell businesses how they can collect, use, and keep people's personal info safe and secure.

It's all about giving people control over their own details and making sure businesses are upfront about what they're doing with that kind of sensitive information.

In short, the Australia Privacy Act is like a pledge to keep private details private and be transparent about how they are used. This helps everyone trust each other a little more, and trust is the needed edge for businesses nowadays.

What is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation - GDPR for short - is this big set of privacy rules that the European Union put in place back in 2018. It's to protect people's personal data and make sure businesses aren't just doing whatever they want with it.

These GDPR rules apply to any business in Europe, but also ones outside Europe that have consumers there. So, say you run a business in Australia but have some European consumers - you still need to follow the GDPR rules for how you handle their personal data.

Each European country has its own data protection authorities that enforce the GDPR. They make sure businesses aren't breaking the rules, and if they catch you, you can get fined a lot of money.

What's cool about the GDPR is it gives more control to people over their own personal information. Businesses must be upfront about what data they collect and get permission to use it. They can't just take people's info and use it however they want.

The GDPR boils down to respecting privacy. Treating people's personal information carefully, like you'd want yours treated. When consumers feel their data is safe, they trust you more as a business. And trust means happier, long-term consumers.

Differences Between Australia Privacy Act vs GDPR

When we talk about keeping personal information safe, both the Australia Privacy Act and the GDPR have the same aim: to protect people's details.

Scope and Who It Applies To

The Privacy Act mainly covers entities that collect Australian resident personal data. Businesses making over $3 million a year or dealing with sensitive data like healthcare facilities need to follow the Australia Privacy Act.

The GDPR guards the data of residents in the EU, so if you collect data from EU residents, you must follow the GDPR no matter where your business is located. This includes most online businesses.

Privacy Principles

Both the Australian Privacy Act and GDPR have underlying principles guiding them, although they use different terminologies.

Australia's Privacy Act uses 13 APPs (Australian Privacy Principles), which regulate how personal data should be handled. These range from rules on transparency in handling information to direct marketing with restrictions for cross-border disclosure of such details.

On the other hand, GDPR operates under seven key principles. They focus on lawfulness and transparency in data collection and processing that tends to be more individual-centric, with emphasis placed on specific user consent.

Data Subject Rights

The GDPR gives people a bunch of rights, like being able to access their data or telling a business to delete it.

The Australia Privacy Act also gives people these rights, but the GDPR takes it a step further. It's like the GDPR gives people a megaphone to yell about their privacy rights.

Cross Border Data Transfers

Sending personal data overseas is another difference between the laws. The GDPR is like a strict consumer agent - it checks to make sure certain strict requirements are met before they let any data out of the EU.

For example, they must transfer the data to a country with an adequacy decision or have certain standard contractual clauses laid out.

The Australia Privacy Act does not have rules that are as strict for transferring data outside the country, though. The business must simply take reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information does not breach the APP while outside of Australia.

Penalties for Breaking the Rules

If a business doesn't follow the laws, both acts require you to pay them big time. Both the Australia Privacy Act and the GDPR's fines can be detrimental to businesses.

The maximum fine for GDPR is €20 million or 4% of a firm's annual revenue, while the Austalia Privacy Act has a maximum fine of AUD 50,000,000 ($30 million) or 30% of a company's adjusted turnover in the breach turnover period.

In essence, while both the Australia Privacy Act and the GDPR share the common goal of protecting personal information, they have their own unique set of rules.

Similarities Between Australia Privacy Act vs GDPR

Think of the Australia Privacy Act and the GDPR as two different cookbooks for the same kind of dish: protecting personal information. They have different recipes, sure, but they share a lot of the same ingredients.

Transparency & Taking Responsibility

Both of these laws think businesses should be open books when it comes to people's personal details.

They should tell folks what you're doing with their data through an easily accessible privacy policy and be able to prove they're doing the right thing. It's all about being clear and owning up to stuff.

Data Security Measures

Another thing these laws agree on is personal info should be kept safe and sound, and just like you wouldn't leave your house with the doors wide open, these laws tell businesses to keep data secure and away from prying eyes.

This could mean proper access controls, encryption, and employee training to ensure data is reasonably protected from cybercriminals.

Data Breach Notifications

If there's a data breach, like someone sneaking a peek at the stuff they shouldn't, both laws say you must tell people about it without unreasonable delay.

Along with notifying the people, you must also notify the appropriate public officials within 72 hours of being aware of it so you know anything you need to do.

Using Data for the Right Reasons

They also say businesses should only collect personal data for necessary reasons. And once they get it, they should only use it for those reasons. It's like borrowing something - you use it for what you said and then give it back.

Right to Access

Lastly, they both give people rights over their data. Like the right to ask, "What information do you have about me?" It's about making sure people can stay in charge of their own details.

Both the GDPR do have certain DSAR exemptions, but generally, consumers should be given access to their data when requested.

The Australia Privacy Act and GDPR have their differences, but they're both trying to protect people's personal data that businesses collect. The laws want businesses to be be transparent, responsible, and fair when handling customers' private information. The bottom line is treating the data with some level of privacy and giving consumers more control.

It's just good ethics and smart business to treat people's information carefully, regardless of which regulations apply. The universal principle is that personal data deserves respect, and that's sensible no matter which law you follow.


So you've started to wrap your head around the privacy rules in Australia and EU. It's like trying to learn two different rulebooks for the same game of protecting people's data. But now you're probably wondering, what next? How do I make sure my business is actually playing by these rules?

That's where experts like Captain Compliance can help. We can break down the fine print and show you how to safeguard personal data like a pro.

Our services will help get you up to speed on corporate compliance. Consider us an extra teammate who's got your back. With us on your side, you can be confident your business is not only following the law but also showing consumers you care about protecting their privacy. That can often give you an edge in business.

So, if you're ready to step up your privacy game with our compliance services, including compliance training, risk assessments, and more. Get in touch with us. Together, we can keep personal information secure and build a reputation people believe in.


What's the main goal of the Australia Privacy Act?

The big idea behind the Australia Privacy Act is to keep personal data under wraps and well cared for. It tells businesses how to handle people's data right from the start—collecting it, using it, and keeping it safe.

Thinking about how to apply these rules in your business? Captain Compliance can guide you through it!

Who needs to follow the Australia Privacy Act?

If you're a business raking in more than 3 million AUD a year, or if you're in the health or credit business, you need to follow this act. It's also a good look for smaller businesses to stick to these rules because it shows they care.

Wondering if your business needs to step up its privacy game? We're here to answer your questions; get in touch with us!

How does GDPR define data protection, and what can businesses learn from it?

Under the GDPR, data protection is all about keeping personal data safe from harm, like a knight guarding a castle. It sets strict rules for businesses to follow, ensuring that personal information is treated with the highest respect and care.

If you're looking to strengthen your business's data defence, learn more about data protection under GDPR with our detailed guide.

How does the Australian Privacy Act compare to the GDPR?

While they're both about keeping data safe, the GDPR is generally considered stricter, and the Australia Privacy Act is more lenient as it doesn’t require most small and medium-sized businesses to follow its rules and has an overall more relaxed stance.

Curious about the nitty-gritty of these differences? Check our guides for more information!