Personal information as a public interest consideration under the GIPA Act
It is timely to remind public sector agencies of the Information Commissioner’s “Guideline 4: Personal information as a public interest consideration under the GIPA Act”. There are a range of NSW Government initiatives and inquiries currently underway that touch upon the use of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) to authorise information sharing. These include the recent announcement of the NSW State Priorities, the launch of a NSW Data Analytics Centre (DAC) by the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, and the Parliamentary inquiry into “Service coordination in communities with high social needs”.
Each of these initiatives highlights that in order for Government to effectively and efficiently target its resources, support and services, agencies need to share information. This may include sharing some of the personal information they hold with other agencies. The GIPA Act confirms that Information sharing must commence from the position of granting access to information. However this commitment to sharing information must also balance factors including the protection of personal information. The GIPA Act also provides mechanisms to promote information sharing and protect personal information.
Personal information can be both a consideration in favour of disclosure, and a consideration against disclosure. Guideline 4 assists agencies to understand what personal information means, and how to properly apply those considerations when carrying out the public interest test under the GIPA Act.