Media Release 1 July 2009: Democrats raise privacy concerns over national e-health ID




ACT Democrats President

Media Release 1 July 2009:

Democrats raise privacy concerns over national e-health ID

The Australian Democrats have raised privacy concerns over the Unique Healthcare Identifier (UHI) programme being developed by the National E-Health Transition Authority. ACT Australian Democrats president and privacy campaigner, Darren Churchill has called on the federal government to release details of the Privacy Impact Assessments on the scheme.

The Democrats claim the UHI sounds reminiscent of the previous governments attempts to replace the Medicare Card with an Access Card (a defacto national ID card) and want to know details of the privacy issues involved.

“We’re already getting conflicting reports between the Human Services Minister and the health Minister over whether or not the Medicare Card will turn into a smart card or not. And the Privacy Impact Assessments remain a secret. This raises a number of concerns!” declared Mr Churchill

“The concerns the Australian Democrats have are:

· What guarantees are there that the individual has control over who sees their information?

· What guarantees are there that only the medical information a person authorises will be stored?

· What protections are there that only medical information will ever be stored?

· What rights to challenge personal information held in medical databases (accuracy and whether the person wants that information held at all) are put in place?

· How open, accountable transparent and available is a person’s right to know the information held about them?

· And is there a limit on how long information can be held?”

“It’s important that there is means for facilitating access to medical records and there needs to be a guarantee that it won’t become mandatory to present all medical details in order to access health care services or Medicare benefits.” Mr Churchill said.

“Even the best intended privacy legislation will not prevent future governments from increasing the coverage and uses of the card (function creep). It has the potential to become a defacto ID card and could enable peoples’ every movement to be tracked.” Mr Churchill said.

“People also need the right to see their own records, to have access to them and correct them. But we need to be cautious that we don’t allow a situation where anyone with a smart-card scanner can access personal records. So, storing information in a chip on a card is one thing. But a centralised database (or even local and regional systems) is quite another – and with considerable risks, including the possibility of identity theft” Mr Churchill cautioned.

“What is the government trying to hide? The details of the first two Privacy Impact Assessments reports should be made available for public comment. As should the third report which has already been commissioned.” Mr Churchill concluded.


Darren Churchill

ACT Democrats President

Tel: 0412 196 473

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