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Disclosing information in the course of your duties

I’m working in a media unit and I’ve been asked to develop a press release that incorporates some personal material that I think might be sensitive. What should I do?

APS Values and Code of Conduct in Practice provides advice for managers and employees in the APS about the application of the Code of Conduct and the APS Values. Section 4.5 of the publication discusses managing information, including non-disclosure obligations and the disclosure of information in the course of your duties in more detail.

There are many reasons why you might disclose information in the course of your duties. However, when doing so, you are required to uphold the APS Values and the Code. Any disclosures you make must be in accordance with any applicable laws.

A central consideration regarding any disclosure is the purpose for which a piece of information was collected. For example, personal and sensitive information is protected by the Privacy Act, which includes the Australian Privacy Principles.

Before disclosing personal information, think about the information in question and consider the following:

  • Why did my agency collect this information? Was it collected for a specific purpose or under a specific law? If so, there may be limits on its use and disclosure.
  • Why is the agency disclosing this information? What is the disclosure meant to achieve and is that disclosure consistent with the law governing its collection, use and disclosure? For example, simply correcting wrong information may not be sufficient justification for disclosing personal information. Ask yourself whether the disclosure meets one of the allowable grounds for disclosure.
  • Who is my audience? In some situations, the authority to disclose may come from the body requesting the information, such as a Senate committee.
Your agency may have internal policies relating to the disclosure of information. Check what’s on your agency’s intranet or get advice from your agency’s Privacy Officer. For further information about Privacy, go to: https://www.oaic.gov.au/agencies-and-organisations/app-guidelines/

If you have concerns about making a disclosure, it may be worthwhile to get legal advice to ensure that you are meeting your obligations to the Privacy Act or other applicable laws.

Finally, think through the implications of any disclosure before making it, particularly where personal information is involved. Any value arising from disclosing this type of information needs to be measured against a possible risk to public confidence.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018