Govt names data advisory board

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The federal government has formed a data advisory group to help it find the “right balance” in making data available to departments while upholding privacy and confidentiality.

The National Data Advisory Council, which has members from the private and public sector, held its inaugural meeting in Sydney on Wednesday.

The council will help the National Data Commissioner on issues including ethical data usage, building social licence, and technical best practice.

It comes as the government continues to work on its Data Sharing and Release legislation, which will authorise the sharing of data between departments and agencies for specified purposes, including informing policy and research and development with public benefits.

But there has been a large amount of public concern about the federal government’s use of data, typified with the bungled roll out of the My Health Record system, and these worries have also centred on the government’s proposed legislation.

The council’s primary role would be to ensure the government maintains the public trust in its use of data, Digital Transformation Minister Michael Keenan said.

“Data held by government is a hugely valuable national resource that, when used correctly, can drive innovation and economic growth, help to better inform public policy and deliver breakthroughs for researchers and scientists,” Mr Keenan said in a statement.

“But maintaining public trust is crucial in order to unlock the full potential that our data holds. That is why I’m pleased to have a council advising us that represents the full range of community views, including those of civil society advocates, researchers and industry.”

Members of the council include ANU Centre for Social Research associate director Dr Nicholas Biddle, open data consultant Ellen Broad, Data Republic co-founder Paul McCarney, Brookings Institution senior fellow Dr Joshua Paul Meltzer, Consumer Policy Research Centre CEO Lauren Solomon and Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley.

Representing the government in the group will be Australian statistician David Kalisch, chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel and Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk.

The government released the first consultation paper on the Data Sharing and Release legislation in July last year, and is still working on the bill, with no timeframe on when it would be introduced to Parliament.

“Work on this legislation is already well advanced and will enshrine the principles of privacy and security, while also ensuring that Australia can continue to capitalise on the enormous benefits that data can deliver when used correctly,” Mr Keenan said.

In the meantime, the government recently revealed interim guidelines for data sharing across agencies and departments, based on the “five safes” of disclosure risk management.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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