Warnings over pushback on consumer data right

The nation’s largest consumer organisation has warned about a My Health-style pushback against proposed consumer data right laws as Australia’s competition watchdog floats potential changes.   

The ACCC’s revisions were released after the CEO of CHOICE Australia flagged concerns about the proposed legislation, warning it takes “one major stuff-up” or data breach for consumer trust to be irreparably damaged.

The CDR, starting with the banking and telecommunications sectors, will eventually give customers a right to direct that their data be shared with others. Future sectors subject to the CDR will be designated by the Treasurer.

But Choice CEO Alan Kirkland last week echoed concerns first raised by Labor digital economy spokesman Ed Husic, who warned CDR could become the next My Health Record.

Alan Kirkland

“The consumer reaction to new forms of technology is largely untested and quite unpredictable, potentially volatile,” he said, pointing to Minister Husic’s concerns about the potential pushback from the CDR.

“There’s something serious underneath [those comments]. People don’t understand AI, they don’t understand what the impact of the CDR will be, and nor did they understand what the My Health Record was a few months ago despite it being in existence for a decade,” he said.

“It demonstrates that it takes one major stuff-up, maybe one error not controlled by the government, one major scare campaign and trust can be undermined and may be irreparable.”

The government will also need to tread carefully with its plans to roll out the CDR economy-wide, Mr Kirkland says, particularly in the area of health.

“Governments will need to be really cautious about anything that opens up access to data in health.”

ACCC floats changes 

The call comes as the ACCC on Friday released further revisions to rules around the controversial consumer data right legislation, with particular safeguards around consent.

The watchdog is inviting feedback from consumers, business and community organisations on the proposed amendments.

Under the changes, the legislation would mandate the consent process being “as easy to understand as is practicable,” with the consumer’s consent needing to be voluntary, express, informed, specific to purpose, time limited and easily withdrawn.

Consent would lapse after 12 months under the proposed amendments, and the consumer must be notified every 90 days that the consent is still current.

Consent: a murky issue

On the question of consumer consent to the use of their data, Mr Kirkland said it was essential that the laws mandate consent be given at the “point-in-time” and in a contextually relevant way.

“Consent is one of the difficult issues with any of these technologies and I think we’ve got to give up on the idea of 73,000 word consent statement, the way research is going is much more in the form of presenting information in contextually relevant ways,” he said.

Mr Kirkland also emphasised the importance of funding consumer awareness campaigns to equip consumers with the tools to navigate the digital world.

“The second question, consumer awareness, needs to be resourced well and thought about it early on.”

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