Australians could be forgiven for holding little faith in the government’s ability to store and safeguard their collective health data, branded My Health Record by Department of Health spin doctors.
The multi-billion-dollar project has been plagued by errors, criticisms and back-flips.
Yesterday, the Federal Government bowed to political pressure and extended the time people have to opt-out of the contentious system — again.
More than one million Australians have already indicated they do not want the government to hold an electronic version of their medical records.
The system, previously opt-in, was changed to opt-out this year with an October, and later November, deadline.
The new, new deadline gives Australians until January, 2019 to withdraw themselves and their children.
The original proposal was criticised for lacking privacy safeguards and allowing government agencies warrantless access to people’s medical records.
All Australians with a Medicare number were to be automatically signed up.
Some of the original issues have been resolved via months of parliamentary wrangling and severe tightening of the rules, but as the year closes politicians still seem unable to settle on a final set of rules.
The Coalition has constantly stepped back from the plan as first unveiled and made concession after concession to the Opposition and cross-benches.
Australia has a privacy problem. Unlike Europe, our privacy laws date back to before the digital age and do not cope well with issues common to the 21st century.
An over-arching privacy framework could have halted the My Health Record debacle before it began if only we had legislated safeguards protecting all government-held data from abuse.
Requiring warrants, mandating protections and limiting access to all data the government holds on private citizens seems a logical set of measures for the digital age.
Without such protections, issues such as those complicating the My Health Record project will be recurring symptoms of an underlying root cause.