Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner departs

Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim will retire leave his role next month.

Attorney-General Christian Porter announced that Pilgrim would retire from the role and leave the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner on 24 March.

Pilgrim has been the Australian Privacy Commissioner since 2010 and part of the OAIC since its launch in November of that year. Between 1998 and his 2010 appointment, Pilgrim was Australia’s deputy privacy commissioner.

As privacy commissioner, Pilgrim oversaw the rollout of the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) as part of 2014 changes to the Privacy Act. During his tenure the federal government attempted to get rid of the OAIC before backing down on a proposal that would have seen the creation of an Office of the Privacy Commissioner with the OAIC’s FOI review functions moved to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Pilgrim’s time at the OAIC has also seen some notable challenges to privacy, including the government’s introduction of the mandatory data retention scheme. The government is currently seeking ways to give law enforcement agencies greater access to encrypted communications services and rolling out a national facial recognition system. Pilgrim and his office have led numerous investigations into private and public sector privacy breaches and the development of a range of privacy resources.

In September last year Pilgrim was appointed Australian Information Commissioner (and reappointed Australian Privacy Commissioner) following a period acting in the role after John McMillan’s retirement.

The commissioner’s retirement follows the commencement last week of Australia’s much-anticipated mandatory data breach reporting scheme. Under the scheme, an organisation that is subject to the Privacy Act will be obliged to notify the Australian Information Commissioner and affected individuals if it suffers an “eligible data breach”.

A selection process to identify Mr Pilgrim’s replacement is currently underway.