THE WA government has committed to creating privacy laws to regulate the sharing of personal data between public sector agencies and “authorised” third parties.
WA is one of two states in Australia without privacy laws, leading to a breakdown in interstate collaboration on health, education, planning and research.
WA attorney general John Quigley said the sharing of information with other states and third parties had been problematic.
“Western Australians rightly expect their privacy to be respected and their information to be used responsibly,” he said.
“The WA Government understands that privacy is important to Western Australians.”
Innovation and ICT Minister Dave Kelly noted that sharing personal data can benefit the community.
“Whether it is something as simple as renewing a license, as complex as improving research into children’s health or as important as reducing cases of family domestic violence…for us to make use of the data the state government holds, we need to ensure this information is safe and people’s privacy is protected,” Mr Kelly said.
A government spokesperson said that there would be a framework for public agencies to share personal data with authorised third parties, which could include non-government organisations providing a service on behalf of government, research institutions, and agencies in other states and the commonwealth.
“When sharing with authorised third parties outside the government, agencies will be required to make an assessment of the recipient’s ability to ensure the security of any personal information provided,” the government spokesperson said.
“Privacy laws in other jurisdictions [in which the third party resides] would likely be a key consideration in determining this.”
The government also plans to create a body to handle privacy complaints if West Australians feel their personal data has been misused.
Critics say there is a lack of transparency with data sharing.
“Other jurisdictions provide varying levels of reporting on information sharing arrangements,” the government spokesperson said.
“Right now there is very limited public visibility into what information is shared between agencies.
“This is one of the areas we are seeking the community and interested groups’ feedback on.”
The oversight body would also be responsible for auditing public sector agencies and holding them to account for any breaches. The laws will only cover the WA public sector agencies and is unrelated to the federal government’s My Health Record. The laws will not provide any legal recourse where there is a personal breach of privacy, like in Dianella earlier this year when residents were stalked and photographed by a drone.
The McGowan government plans to legislate the privacy laws before the next state election and is seeking community input until November 1 at http://www.wa.gov.au/privacyproject
by SEAN HILL