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Concerns mount over the sale of birth date and health data in Australia

Heart Health close-up, cardiologist inspects patient ECG and ultrasound data, with a computer.

Amid growing privacy concerns, experts warn about the potential misuse of Australians’ birth dates and health data. Katharine Kemp, a prominent voice in data privacy from UNSW, highlights the risks associated with the commercialisation of personal information. As digital transactions and online activities increase, so does the risk of personal data being exploited.

Kemp’s insights come at a time when individuals are increasingly concerned about how their data is handled. Birth dates and health information are particularly sensitive, as they can be used to track individuals’ identities, medical histories, and even financial transactions. The sale of such data to third parties poses significant risks, including identity theft, discrimination, and a loss of privacy.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) eighth interim report into digital platforms shows that 74% of Australians are uncomfortable with their personal data being shared or sold. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that many companies collect and sell data without explicit user consent. Health apps, online services, and even some government platforms have been found to share users’ personal information with advertisers and other third parties. This practice raises ethical and legal questions about data ownership and the responsibilities of organisations handling sensitive information.

In response to these concerns, there are calls for stronger regulations and better enforcement of existing data protection laws. Advocates argue for more transparency in how data is collected, used, and shared. They also emphasise the need for individuals to have more control over their personal information, including the ability to opt-out of data sharing arrangements.

The Australian government is under pressure to address these issues by implementing stricter data protection measures. The ACCC’s recent report does not make any new recommendations to the government but provides further evidence to support the introduction of a prohibition on unfair trading practices and the implementation of strengthened privacy laws in Australia.

For a full reading of the interim report, see here.

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