The Productivity Commission is recommending a major overhaul of Australia's data policy framework, including the introduction of a Comprehensive Right to give people more control over their data.
Changes in the way business and government manage people's data needs to be a priority if Australia is to reap the benefits of data as an asset.
'Surprising though it may be to many, individuals have no rights to ownership of the data that is collected about them. Data is increasingly an asset, and when you create an asset you should have the ability to use it, or not, at your choice,' Productivity Commission Chair, Peter Harris said.
‘We are proposing the creation of a Comprehensive Right to data control for consumers that would give people the right to access their data, and direct that it be sent to another party, such as a new doctor, insurance company or bank. Plus an expanded right for people to opt out of data-collecting activities. And existing privacy laws would all remain in place,'' he said.
This Comprehensive Right which would give consumers the right to direct data holders, in both the private or public sector, to transfer a copy of their information to a third party is a big shift in competition policy. Consumers in this instance would also include businesses when they are acting as purchasers.
'This will give people and businesses who want to be active consumers, genuine control over their data, and will allow innovative businesses and governments the chance to offer those consumers better services. It will increase competition, and give businesses and governments strong incentives to handle data better.'
The report shows that Australia is missing out on opportunities for improved health care, safer and more efficient infrastructure and machinery maintenance, enhanced supply chain logistics, and the development of more tailored, data-driven, financial and energy market products.
The report warns that Australia can no longer afford to forgo its benefits under the misconception that denying access will minimise risks.
'The risks from the proposed reforms are no greater than the risks today that are managed by any consumer who chooses to click a mouse and buy or subscribe to a product. And the same advice applies: be very choosey about who you share your data with,' Productivity Commission Chair, Peter Harris said.
Australia is rapidly falling behind other countries such as the UK and New Zealand in our use of data and we need to allow broader and quicker access for important research and development.
‘We saw a number of cases where health researchers were waiting years to access data. This research led to important changes in treatment processes and literally saved lives. In one important research study they still don't have the data they require and they have been waiting eight years,' Mr Harris said.
The reforms proposed include a contemporary approach to providing permission to Australian Government agencies to share and release data, subject to strong safeguards. A newly established National Data Custodian would have responsibility for accrediting data sharing and release, including a suite of national interest datasets. States and territories would be invited to contribute to and use the national interest datasets.
Public hearings for this Inquiry will be held on 21 November in Melbourne and on 28 November in Sydney.
Rosalyn Bell (Assistant Commissioner) 02 6240 3308
Leonora Nicol (Media, Publications and Web) 02 6240 3239 / 0417 665 443
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