The government has announced plans to reform the privacy code and processes of the Australian Public Service (APS) in order to combat public concerns about the ability of the government to handle people’s personal details safely.
The announcement was made today by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson, following a long campaign for reform initiated by Information Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.
“I have formed the view that there is a need to strengthen the overall privacy governance processes within Australian Public Service agencies,” said a letter from Mr Pilgrim to Mr Parkinson.
“I believe that if this is not done, there is a risk that the community may lose trust in the ability of Government to deliver on key projects which involve the use of personal information.”
The downfall in public confidence in the APS comes after several high-profile errors in the handling of customers’ personal data were brought to light, including the revealing of a Centrelink client’s personal details to a journalist in March this year and the leaking of sensitive Medicare data in September 2016.
Mr Pilgrim will develop the improved privacy code alongside the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC), with the hope that it will be ready for implementation in 2018. The code will be legally binding upon its introduction and will be officially tied to the Privacy Act.
He says he is also intending to undertake an audit of Centrelink’s automated debt recovery service, after a Senate inquiry reported earlier this year that there were large problems within the system.
PMC and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) said that the code would help maximise the value of personal data to the government.
“The code can therefore be a catalyst to transform the Australian government’s data performance – increasing both internal capacity and external transparency to stakeholders,” they said in a statement.