Can privacy and health identifiers mix?

Can privacy and health identifiers mix?

Summary: A new 16-digit healthcare identifier for all Australians is a centrepiece of the Rudd Government's e-health strategy. The numbers are scheduled to be issued from 1 July, but have the privacy issues been properly thought out?

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A new 16-digit healthcare identifier for all Australians is a centrepiece of the Rudd Government's e-health strategy. The numbers are scheduled to be issued from 1 July, but have the privacy issues been properly thought out?

The Healthcare Identifiers Bill (PDF) is currently making its way through parliament, but many key details have been left to be defined in regulations. After pressure in a Senate committee, Health Minister Nicola Roxon was forced to release draft regulations (PDF) on Friday, but they're still short on details.

In Patch Monday this week, Dr Juanita Fernando from the Australian Privacy Foundation outlines the privacy risks and explains that we could still get many of the benefits of integrated health records without having a central honeypot database of personal information.

And with state elections in Tasmania and South Australia this weekend, and a federal election expected some time this year, we look at internet voting. Security expert Jan Meijer helped organise one of the Netherlands' biggest online votes, and he explains the risks to Stilgherrian.

Plus we have the usual idiosyncratic look at the week's IT news headlines.

To leave an audio comment for Patch Monday, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Topics: Health, Government AU, Privacy, Security

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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4 comments
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  • Google pull out

    I think you better check your facts more thoroughly. The basis for the report seems to be a Financial Times article of dubious credibility. Here is the last part of the first paragraph of the article:

    "according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking."

    Is that near enough to "Google said" to satisfy you?
    anonymous
  • Script editing error

    Yes, in the process of writing and editing the script, I went from the lead "Google ... was now '99.9 per cent' certain that it will shut down its Chinese search engine, Google.cn" at http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/security/soa/Google-99-9-sure-on-leaving-China/0,130061744,339301753,00.htm to "Google is" to "Google says" without re-checking against the original story. My bad.

    That's what the comments are for: expanding on and correcting the story. But "I think you better" do it without the sarcasm.
    anonymous
  • Another attempt to number Australian citizens

    Whilst I appreciate the potential for a unique identifier to assist with health care I really wonder the following:

    1. Is it really needed?
    2. What is the cost/benefit of this scheme?
    3. Is it another attempt at an identity card?
    4. What is the opportunity for this to be abused (government abuse or otherwise)?

    We already have Medicare numbers, Tax File Numbers, Drivers License Numbers etc. Do we need another one?
    anonymous
  • The challenge is being unique

    Yes this is actually the one number we do need. Unfortunately Medicare numbers are not unique a large proportion of the population have 3 or more Medicare numbers during there lifetime. The same is true for drivers licenses. TFN is closer but it's use for such purposes is restricted in legislation plus it might not be appropriate for data matching between tax records and healthcare data.
    Just one clarification this is not a Rudd initiative - the work for this started in 2004.
    anonymous