By Robyn Molloy

Businesses hope proposed ‘privacy and responsible information sharing’ legislation for data collected by the public service will lead to quicker decisions and less duplication across State Government departments and agencies.

They also want clear safeguards and guidelines for where data can be shared and with who, along with greater consideration for what constitutes confidential and sensitive information.

The State Government announced in August it would take a ‘citizen-centric’ approach to the reforms, to work out how information gathered by the public sector is collected, managed, used and stored.

It has released a discussion paper and has been calling for submissions on the opportunities and risks for data sharing. WA and South Australia are the only states without an overarching legal framework for privacy, with the Federal Government introducing the Privacy Act in 1988.

CCIWA hosted a workshop with businesses and representatives from the Department of Premier and Cabinet last week to flesh out the opportunities and risks for businesses of the proposed reforms. 

Businesses said there needed to be clear visibility of how their data was handled once submitted to government as currently there is no clear way of tracking where it went as well as transparency around data breaches.

They expressed concern about the lack of understanding of what businesses classifed as highly sensitive commercial information. 

In one case raised previously with CCIWA, a government staff member almost published sensitive information because they didn’t realise the importance of what they were handling.

Businesses were also worried that the government may not be able to recruit the specialist skills of data analysts when the private sector was already struggling to fill these roles.

“It’s all well and good to have a framework, but actually being able to manage it is another story,” one said.

Project lead for the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) Robin Ho said consulting with business was an important part of the process to understand the impacts of the policy proposal.

She said the data collected by the public service was an untapped asset but understood that there were concerns around the collection and sharing of information.

With heightened awareness around the problems with privacy and information sharing and no overarching legal framework for the public sector, Ho said at times there was a risk averse approach where information was not even being shared within departments and agencies when it clearly needed to be.

“We have a complex array of common law and numerous statutes that govern and regulate the confidential sets of information that government holds,” she said.

Ho said the expected benefits included stronger protections for privacy, improved accountability and transparency and easier interactions leading to better government decision and availability of new insights. 

DPC’s principal policy officer Neil Burgess said while it was easy to understand the problems and opportunities for government, it was much harder to understand the impacts for business.

He said the legislation was an opportunity for more accountability and transparency around what and where the government shares data.

CCIWA will lodge a submission by the November 1 deadline. Feedback can be sent to policy manager Justin Ashley on justin.ashley@cciwa.com.