Dealing with personal information in an emergency, pandemic or disaster event

Between bushfires, floods, cyclones and pandemics, it’s important for public sector employees to understand how sharing personal information during an emergency can help government agencies keep the community safe.

Sharing information rapidly during natural disasters or emergency events (like the pandemic) can speed up help for those in need, especially individuals whose health and safety may be at risk.

But what about the privacy implications? What do you need to consider when handling personal information in an emergency? When it comes to information collecting and sharing obligations, the COVID-19 pandemic has also showed how important it is to gain public trust through transparency.

The Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP Act) contains protections and provisions for personal information held by Queensland public sector agencies. This includes flexibilities for dealing with personal information in an emergency. Some of these flexibilities include specific exemptions in the privacy principles governing secondary use and disclosure for situations where the health and safety of individuals may be at risk.

Queensland public sector agencies will be better prepared to handle personal information before, during and after an emergency or disaster event if they understand these flexibilities and other provisions of the IP Act.

We have a guideline for public service officers and contracted service providers who need to use, disclose, or access personal information in a disaster or emergency event. It includes practical tips and examples to increase understanding and help simplify compliance with the IP Act.

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