All information about a living person is personal information.  The Privacy Act applies to all personal information, not just sensitive information.  However, if the information is sensitive information then its collection, safe storage and release can require more care.

There is no definition of sensitive information in the Privacy Act and what is sensitive can vary from person to person and circumstance to circumstance.

Information generally regarded as sensitive includes such things as ethnicity, health, financial, sexual orientation, sex life, gender, age, political beliefs, race and disability.

Information about children can also be more sensitive, because of their vulnerable position.

Collecting sensitive information can require a higher standard of fairness than mundane personal information, as can the steps necessary to protect the information from unauthorised disclosure.

If someone’s sensitive information is disclosed this is more likely to be a privacy breach and require reporting to the individual and Privacy Commissioner than the unauthorised release of mundane information.

The damages awarded for privacy breaches in relation to sensitive information are also likely to be greater, because of the bigger harm suffered as a result of the breach.

It is important that agencies get their privacy processes correct and if in doubt get advice from a professional experienced in the area.


Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Alan Knowsley