STUART KENNEDY
August 9, 2018

Keenan names Data Commissioner

Special Reports

Keenan names Data Commissioner

Deborah Anton: Australia's brand new National Data Commissioner

The Federal government has made Deborah Anton the country’s first National Data Commissioner as the list of government data privacy challenges becomes ever lengthier and more fraught.

The announcement of Ms Anton’s new role (officially she is the interim National Data Commissioner) came from Human Services Minister and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Transformation Michael Keenan.

”In line with recommendations from the Productivity Commission, the interim Commissioner will work closely with the Privacy Commissioner to help strengthen safeguards around the integrity, management and use of government held data,” Mr Keenan said in a statement.

Ms Anton comes across from a three-year stint at IP Australia where she was deputy director general and before that had a range of public service jobs including being a division head at AusIndustry.

Ms Anton is likely to be one very busy commissioner once she gets her feet under the desk.

As Mr Keenan’s presser notes, one of Ms Anton’s first duties will be helping form the practicalities of the new Data Sharing and Release Act.

According to Mr Keenan, the new Data Commissioner will work on the safeguards “that will be enshrined in law through the delivery of a new Data Sharing and Release Act to simplify the complex web of more than 500 privacy and secrecy provisions that currently exist across government departments.

“The interim Commissioner will develop a new framework to improve access to non-sensitive data to help drive growth and innovation within the Australian economy,” Mr Keenan’s statement said.

Wrangling those 500 plus privacy and secrecy provisions to get the best result for the citizenry will keep Ms Anton’s office on its toes but there is plenty more on the government data horizon.

Contained within the Data Sharing and Release Act is the new Consumer Data Right which is one of the Coalition’s main tools for opening up data sharing in various industry sectors including the banks, which are wincing every day from the still live banking royal commission.

Helping bring the Consumer Data Right into the real world will likely be on Ms Anton’s remit.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has been extremely active of late in promoting the government’s open banking regime. The government has targeted banking as one of the first industry sectors to come under the provisions of the new Consumer Data Right.

Getting the privacy and other settings for open banking right will take plenty of work according to Chris Michael, the chief technology officer with the UK’s Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE).

Mr Michael was in town recently and participated in a high-power roundtable with local financial industry executives.

At the roundtable he said Australia will need to place particular attention on its open banking testing regime.

“I think you need to think about Australia having enough time to test and validate things,” Mr Michael said.

"It is not a one-off process because as we all know this concept of minimum viable products is a very important concept, so I don’t think this has been very well thought through in Europe of how this is going to play out beyond 2019.

"The concept of having enough testing time is an important one, something we all need to think about.

Mr Michael says identity is at the heart of unlocking how the APIs work.

“The most important thing is getting the security model right: both in the point of view of protecting the customer with their credentials and banking credentials and how the customer authenticates with a third-party or a bank.

"The standard has to be able to be implemented effectively by vendors and third parties.

"If you’ve got variances in the security model it creates potentially a huge barrier for third parties to develop and integrate their applications with each bank that can be a significant barrier.

"It also creates huge problems from a user experience point of view where you’ve got different banks adopting different ways of authenticating customers and requiring customers to go through different flows,” Mr Michael said.

Another potential large chunk of work for Ms Anton’s new Data Commissioner Office is the Coalition government’s My Health Record initiative which has taken a public caning in recent weeks as many citizens choose to opt out of the scheme (the time limit to opt out expires on October 15) due to concerns about use and access of the medical information contained in MHR.

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