Public Registers

There are special rules for personal information held on public registers.

What is a public register?

A public register is an official list of names, events and transactions. Under law, it is required to be available to the public.

Because every public register is different, the type of information included on the register depends on the purpose and situation. Personal information kept on public registers could include your name, home and email addresses, phone, gender, occupation and qualifications. The list may include other documents such as records of approvals or licences.

Examples of public registers include electoral rolls, development applications and building certificates.

When can personal information on a public register be released?

Before personal information on a public register can be released, the agency must have a satisfactory reason for doing so. The information should only be released for the purpose in which the register was kept or under the law for which the register is kept.

These rules prevail over any contrary provisions set out in an Act under which the register is established.

The only exemption to this general rule is if the Attorney General makes a regulation or a privacy code of practice.

For example the public registers held by NSW Land Registry Services (previously Land and Property Information) have been excluded from the public register provisions by regulation, and Privacy Codes of Practice have also been approved to modify the public register provisions for some registers, particularly in relation to local councils.

When can information be withheld from a public register?

In some circumstances, where your safety or wellbeing may be affected, you may ask that your personal information is not made available to the public.

The Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (PPIP Act) says that where personal information is contained in a public register, you may request that the public sector agency responsible for keeping the register:

  • removes or does not place the information on the register; or 
  • does not release the information from the register to the public.

If the agency is satisfied that the safety or wellbeing of any person would be affected by not withholding the personal information as requested then:

  • the agency must suppress the information; unless 
  • the agency believes that the public interest in maintaining public access to the information outweighs any individual interest in suppressing the information.