Summary of recommendations on Productivity Commission's draft report on data availability and use

03 Nov 2016

  • Governance
  • Data
  • Privacy and Compliance

As data-driven marketers, it is essential that we keep ahead of government recommendations that potentially impact our ability to engage with our customers. Currently, there are important government inquiries being undertaken to determine the future of data access and usage in Australia. Making sure that we get the rules right is essential to marketers, business and the economy overall.

Today, the Productivity Commission – a government research and advice body – issued a series of recommendations relating to the availability of government datasets and how they can be used. Although the report largely focuses on the government, the Commission also made a number of recommendations that affect private sector companies.

Following 12 months of gathering submissions, the key recommendations for the private sector include;

• All Australian governments entering into contracts with the private sector, which involve the creation of datasets in the course of delivering public services, should assess the strategic significance and public interest value of the data prior to contracting. Where data is assessed to be valuable, governments should retain the right to access or purchase that data in machine readable form and apply any analysis that is within the public interest.

• In conjunction with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other agencies with data de-identification expertise, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner should develop and publish practical guidance on best practice de-identification processes.
The Australian Government should introduce a definition of consumer data that includes:

  • personal information, as defined in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)
  • all files posted online by the consumer
  • all data derived from consumers’ online transactions or Internet-connected activity
  • other data associated with transactions or activity that is relevant to the transfer of data to a nominated third party.

• Individuals should have a Comprehensive Right to access digitally held data about themselves. This access right would give the individual a right to:

  •   continuing shared access with the data holder
  •   access the data provided directly by the individual, collected in the course of other actions (and including administrative datasets), or created by others, for example through re-identification
  •   request edits or corrections for reasons of accuracy
  •   be informed about the intention to disclose or sell data about them to third parties
  •   appeal automated decisions
  •   direct data holders to copy data in machine-readable form, either to the individual or to a nominated third party. Individuals should also have the right, at any time, to opt out of a data collection process, subject to a number of exceptions. Exceptions would include data collected or used as:
  •   a condition of continued delivery of a product or service to the individual
  •   necessary to satisfy legal obligations or legal claims
  •   necessary for a specific public interest purpose (including archival)
  •   part of a National Interest Dataset (as defined in Draft Recommendation 9.4).

The right to cease collection would not give individuals the capacity to prevent use of data collected on the individual up to the point of such cessation.

• The Australian Government, in consultation with state and territory governments, should establish a process whereby public and private datasets are able to be nominated and designated as National Interest Datasets (NIDs). Datasets (across the public and private sector) designated as NIDs would satisfy an underlying public interest test and their release would be likely to generate significant community-wide net benefits. Designation would occur via a disallowable instrument on the recommendation of the National Data Custodian

Recommendations for Government include;

• All Australian Government agencies should create comprehensive, easy to access data registers (listing both data that is available and that which is not) by 1 October 2017 and publish these registers on data.gov.au.

• To streamline approval processes for data access, the Australian Government should:

  • issue clear guidance to data custodians on their rights and responsibilities, ensuring that requests for data access are dealt with in a timely and efficient manner;
  • require that data custodians report annually on their handling of requests for data access;

• Government agencies should adopt and implement data management standards to support increased data availability and use as part of their implementation of the Australian Government’s Public Data Policy Statement.

• In determining datasets for public release, a central government agency with policy responsibility for data should maintain a system whereby all Australian governments’ agencies, researchers and the private sector can, on an ongoing basis, nominate datasets or combinations of datasets for public release, with the initial priority being the release of high value, in-demand datasets.

• The Australian Government should establish an Office of the National Data Custodian, as a new function within the Government to have overall responsibility for the implementation of data management policy.

• The Australian Government should introduce a Data Sharing and Release Act which includes the following:

  •   Provisions requiring government agencies to share and release data with other
  •   government agencies and requiring sharing between government agencies and
  •   other sectors. – These provisions would operate regardless of all restrictions on data
  •   sharing or release contained in other legislation, policies or guidelines. – The
  •   provisions may be waived in limited exceptional circumstances, and the Act should
  •   specify what these circumstances are.
  •   Strengthened provisions on access to data by individuals, including rights to access and edit data about them, a right to have data copied and transferred, and a right to request that collection cease.
  •   Provisions establishing the Framework for the governance of Comprehensive Rights of consumers, access to National Interest Datasets, approval of trusted users and accreditation processes for Release Authorities.

Finally, recommendation 6.2 states:

• The private sector is likely to be best placed to determine sector-specific standards for its data sharing between firms, where required by reforms proposed under the new data Framework. In the event that voluntary approaches to determining standards and data quality do not emerge or adequately enable data access and transfer (including where sought by consumers), governments should facilitate this, when deemed to be in the public interest to do so.

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