In the pursuit to have effective systems and empowering the government to improve people’s lives, the Australian Federal government will be largely compromising on a single tenet in its Data Sharing and Release Legislative Reforms, consent.
Established after the 2016 deliberations by the Productivity Commission, who were equipped with the task to study how data was used across Australia, the National Data Commissioner was appointed. This was done for “driving change and supporting best practice sharing and release of public sector data”. A National Data Advisory Council to advise the Commissioner on ethical data use, community engagement, technical best practice, as well as industry and international developments was set up.
Done with the intent to modern Australia’s data sharing system and optimally capitalize on the information to further better operations, the new reform did not factor in the protection of privacy clause. This was criticized by many including researchers from the University of Melbourne who called the data-sharing legislation a “significant misalignment”.
The government release of the discussion paper on the same, outlines the proposed legislation and its need stating its reasons and conditions under which no consent may be adhered to. “While consent is important in certain situations, the societal outcomes of fair and unbiased government policy, research, and programs can outweigh the benefits of consent, provided privacy is protected,” it says. “The Office of the National Data Commissioner will encourage the use of consent where appropriate when applying the Data Sharing Principles, although the legislation will not require it in all circumstances.”
“The Data Sharing and Release legislation is about improving government policy and research by helping government and researchers use a better evidence base. If we required consent, then data would only be shared where consent was given,” the paper says.
However, the discussion paper, is an open forum, inviting changes and suggestions and its own list of 14 questions. Submissions close October 15 and the government said it will use responses to undertake another round of engagement. The legislation will go on the floors in Parliament in mid-2020.