Wednesday, 01 August 2018 08:46

Privacy row forces govt to change My Health Record law Featured

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Backing down: Greg Hunt. Backing down: Greg Hunt. greghunt.com.au

Faced with growing privacy concerns, the Federal Government has backed down over its controversial My Health Record system and said it would change the laws governing release of data.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement after meeting Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone in Melbourne on Tuesday night that the My Health Record Act would be redrafted.

Controversy over the digital record system erupted after a three-month period for opting out kicked off on 16 July.

Two days later, the former head of the government's Digital Transformation Agency, Paul Shetler, added to the furore by saying that the system could well end up as another tech wreck, and that if he was an Australian, he would probably opt out himself.

The statement issued by Hunt said: "The amendment will ensure no record can be released to police or government agencies, for any purpose, without a court order.

"The Digital Health Agency’s policy is clear and categorical - no documents have been released in more than six years and no documents will be released without a court order. This will be enshrined in legislation."

Dr Bartone told  The Sydney Morning Herald that he welcomed Hint's decision.

"In addition, we’ve also impressed upon the Minister that there’s a need to have some clear air, to ensure that the community has time to fully understand what is a My Health Record and what is entailed in the opt out process," he said.

Dr Bartone added that Hunt was willing to consider an extension of the opt-out period by a month.

The Australian Digital Health Agency has been reluctant to provide statistics about the number of opt-outs.

When iTWire asked the ADHA a day after the opt-out period began about how many were choosing to have their names to be taken off, the agency said there were no figures available as yet.

"Following the end of the three-month opt-out window, there will be a 30-day reconciliation period for the processing of paper forms arriving by mail," a spokesperson said.

"Records will then be created for Australians who have not opted out of having a My Health Record. These records must be created by the end of 2018 and further statistics will be available then."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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