Government to legislate individuals’ right to access their data

New open data regime to initially cover banking, energy and telco sectors

The government will introduce legislation to create a new Consumer Data Right, which will allow individuals to access data relating to their banking, energy, phone and Internet usage.

Assistant minister for cities and digital transformation Angus Taylor revealed details of the plan, which forms part of the government’s response to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the availability and use of public and private data by individuals and organisations.

The inquiry recommended the creation of a “comprehensive right” for consumers to access and use their data.

The PC said that the new right would enable consumers to “share in perpetuity joint access to and use of their consumer data with the data holder”, receive a copy of their consumer data, request corrections to data held by organisations, be made aware of any transfer of their data to third parties, and request that a business that holds data about them transfer it in machine-readable form — to either the individual concerned or a third-party organisation.

The PC said that consumer data should be defined as digital data, provided in machine-readable format, that is held by a product or service provider, identified with a consumer, and associated with a product or service provided to that consumer.

“Government is pursuing the very simple idea that the customer should own their own data,” Taylor said in a statement. “It is a powerful idea and a very important one.”

The government said Consumer Data Right will be established one sector at a time, beginning with the banking, energy and telco industries.

Businesses covered by the new regime will be “required to provide standard, comparable, easy-to-read digital information, that third parties can readily access”.

The government said legislation to implement the new data access regime will be introduced next year.

(Earlier this month the government said it would mandate comprehensive credit reporting, beginning with Australia’s Big Four banks. Changes to the Privacy Act that came into effect in 2014 made CCR possible, allowing greater detail to be shared about an individual’s credit history.)

In July, the chair of Data Governance Australia, Graeme Samuel, argued against the model of data access advocated by the PC.

“While the move to open data should be encouraged if we are to truly realise the full value of data to our society, there are serious concerns whether private business would continue their investment into data under a joint ownership of data model,” Samuel said in a National Press Club address.

“This is likely to ultimately stifle innovation and value-creation and weaken Australia’s ability to compete globally,” the former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said.

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