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Data collection of Australian athletes needs regulation

The Australian Academy of Science and the University of Western Australia’s Minderoo Tech & Policy Lab has released a discussion paper on sensitive data collected from professional Australian athletes.

The discussion paper is focused on professional athletes and the data collected and used by commercial parties over the last decade. Data collected about athletes is justified under the guise of sports science, with information collected to improve performance and reduce injuries. However, marketing businesses and agencies have increasingly sought to collect everything on these athletes and use this data as a new method of monetisation.

Athlete data is comprised of continuous, personal, sensitive, and oftentimes intimate information about an athlete’s mental and physical states. As such, this data must be appropriately handled in accordance with Australian data and privacy laws. However, current management practices do not comply with legal requirements. Firstly, “performance sports data” is not a legally recognised concept in Australia and athlete data is poorly managed despite concerning primarily health information. Secondly, the data recorded on athletes is often continuously stored on internal databases despite not being reasonably necessary to do so. Presently, there is a divide between organisational, legal, and ethical guidelines to manage athlete data.

Consequently, the authors of the discussion paper stress that change is necessary, and Australia is in a prime position to set new sports data governance standards. It is essential to align athlete data with similar data practices in Australia to ensure the safety and transparency of athlete data collection. True change must come from sports agencies and the discussion paper notes that the Rugby League Players Association and the Australian Institute of Sport are working to establish accurate and protected data collection practices.

For the full reading of the discussion paper, see here.

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