NSW: Balancing data sharing and privacy

The NSW government's digital strategy had a number of wins in 2019.

The digital driver's licence successfully concluded two trials and when released to the state as a whole, it had a massive take-up in the first 48 hours.

Service NSW, the single customer service division for the delivery of government services has also made great strides during the year in digitising a number of forms, simplifying processes and reducing the complexity of dealing with government, for example gun licences.

The NSW digital strategy and the Open Data policy has allowed the sharing of government data on over 10,000 datasets and the development of many applications which have been useful to consumers, in particular around transport usage.

NSW has not been dogged by the problems which have persisted at a federal level where de-identified or purportedly de-identified data sets have been released and subsequently been able to be re-identified.

NSW is set to remain at the forefront of digitisation, through the demonstration of significant commitment to preserving privacy. This is led by the NSW Chief Data Scientist Dr Ian Oppermann – one of the leaders in the field of de-identification and the editor of the recent publication "Privacy-Preserving Data Sharing Frameworks – People, Projects, Data and Output" by the Australian Computer Society in December 2019. This publication further provides a forward written by the NSW Minister for Customer Service.

However, this has not always been the case and the introduction of the Opal card – which allowed individuals to be tracked – raised the ire of many. In particular, the then NSW Information and Privacy Commissioner and resulted in a private action being taken by a privacy advocate who initially was successful in the NSW Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (NCAT) in February 2018. It was claimed that Transport for NSW had breached the individual's privacy and the NSW Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act, but in August 2018 the NCAT Appeal Panel set aside the decision.

All of this change is occurring as the tide of trust in digital platforms appears to be slowly turning and individuals are moving to take back control of both their data and digital personas. NSW appears well-placed to operate in that environment, balancing data sharing and privacy.

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