Perspective - Greater regulation and higher penalties

By Sarah Campbell | 14 December 2023
Sarah Campbell; image supplied.

The AdNews end of year Perspectives, looking back at 2023 and forward to next year.

The Australian research, data and insights industry is valued at more than $3 billion. It’s a significant global market, employing more than 14,000 people. ADIA analysis shows that inflationary pressures impacted real growth for the sector in 2022/23, and it is in context that our members continue to operate. For the association, we continue to support our member organisations in areas they need most: advocacy, quality standards and privacy law, training and professional development, legal and workplace relations. 

The year started with optimism and growth. However, it also delivered some challenging economic conditions that impacted our clients and, by design, our industry. That said, ADIA’s recent quarterly revenue statistics industry report showed year on year growth sitting at 8%, so I’m taking that as a positive sign for the year ahead. 

2024 will bring greater regulation and higher penalties, particularly where privacy law is concerned. We’ve already seen significantly increased penalties for privacy breaches, from $2.4 million to over $50 million and in 2024, we are likely to see further Government reforms and tougher regulation as supported by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).  

“This is a vital set of proposals that will deliver significant gains for the Australian community,” Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner, Angelene Falk, said.  “With increasing use of high impact technologies, it is critical that these reforms proceed as a priority alongside other key initiatives that rely on a strong privacy foundation such as the Australian Cyber Security Strategy and Digital ID framework.” 

At the core of the proposed changes, the Government looks set to broaden the scope of the information relating to individuals that is regulated and also address ‘choice architecture’ or ‘dark patterns’: behavioural ‘nudges’ through interaction design features that push affected individuals to select less protective privacy settings.  

Other recommendations from the review include: 

  • To allow Australians to sue for serious breaches of privacy  
  • For small to medium businesses (those with turnover under $3m) to comply with the Privacy Act 
  • Introducing greater protections for children  
  • That organisations will be required to report data breaches within 72 hours rather than the current much longer period 
  • That people should have an ‘unqualified’ right to opt out of their personal information being used for direct marketing 
  • The ‘right to be forgotten’ – there is tentative agreement that individuals should have the right to require an entity to delete or de-identify their personal information. 

ADIA members know that their livelihood depends on the public's goodwill and those willing to participate in market and social research. Trust is hard won and easily lost, and this helps drive their commitment to working over and above minimal privacy legislation.

This is one of the reasons why all ADIA member organisations work under Australia's only registered industry privacy code. The Code is adjudicated by the Privacy Commissioner (and part of ADIA's membership criteria and a pillar of the industry trust mark), so this area will be a crucial focus for the Association and its Privacy Compliance Committee (chaired by Professor Peter Leonard) with increased advocacy, working with the OAIC and stakeholders to ensure our Code continues to protect and support our members’ commitment to privacy and trust.   

This will be a key topic at next year’s ADIA Leader’s Forum conference in March in Sydney. It’s a premium, member-only CEO summit and the only one for our industry. It’s always a great hit with attendees and draws on the best speakers and content of the day.  

It’s also a perfect opportunity to connect with members from all around the country, industry partners and stakeholders. We often use the event to identify what’s coming down the line and what we need to address - as a collective - for services to remain relevant for member employers and their teams.  

This year, we introduced a young leaders half-day session to foster up-and-coming talent across the industry – it was a great success and encouraging to meet and support our industry’s brilliant talent. In addition to this session, ADIA also runs a successful joint global program with our European association partner, ESOMAR, called Research Got Talent – which focuses on research for good, supports a charity of choice, and showcases talent and the value of evidence-based research. Nurturing and developing the next generation of leaders to ensure industry sustainability is an integral part of what we do, and I love it!  

AI is also an important and exciting journey to look forward to. It’s evolving and not without risks, but already a game-changer with loads of potential benefits. The future for our industry and our clients is incredibly bright but there is a lot of work to be done around AI, innovative tools and ensuring we adopt an ethical approach. 

And finally, I’m looking forward to collapsing by the beach over summer with my kids and a couple of books. Bliss.  

Sarah Campbell is CEO of the Australian Data and Insights Association (ADIA) 

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