Liberty Victoria is concerned about the privacy implications of the new Health Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2021 which is before the Victorian Parliament.
When the Australian Government's Health Records scheme was mooted, extensive consultation took place with civil society groups. Part of the debate was whether the scheme ought to be opt-in or opt-out. Concerns raised by various community groups were a key consideration. This included concerns by refuges for women and children fleeing family violence to exposure of patient data. There should be a public consultation in respect of this Bill, due to the privacy implications of the scheme.
This Victorian Bill has no provisions for opt-in or opt-out – all patients are in and their consent is not required. There are no provisions for the de-identification of at-risk individuals. All data is open to all users of the system.
Liberty Victoria holds serious concerns for the potential of the suggested central database to become a vulnerable ‘honeypot’ for personal data. All patient data including the identifiers at each clinic and hospital are to be stored. The database would be a major target for exploitation by hackers and organised crime and there is insufficient focus on protecting this personal information.
The Statement of Compatibility does not demonstrate any balance with the competing need for protection of privacy and does not engage sufficiently with the issue of whether a person consents to their information being stored in a central database. The Statement of Compatibility includes a consideration that the access to the database is circumscribed by legislation and privacy is protected because of the creation of offence provisions. However simply making misuse of information and unauthorised access a criminal offence to address privacy concerns is unlikely to present a significant deterrent to the most sophisticated players who operate outside Australia.
The speed with which this Bill is being ushered through Parliament is of grave concern. Such fundamental long-term policy must be thoroughly vetted by concerned parties and by the Parliament. This Bill should be subject to a broad inquiry by a relevant Standing Committee and public consultations with practical submission dates.
The scheme is proposed to start in February 2023, which should give the Government plenty of time to plan, consult, and consider the implications of this Bill.
Liberty Victoria would be deeply concerned if this Bill is not subject to the strongest scrutiny prior to being finalised in the Legislative Council.
For any further questions, please contact Liberty Victoria at firstname.lastname@example.org or on (03) 9670 6422