Just who can access your My Health Record?

July 25, 2018

There's increasing pressure on the Coalition government to explain just who can access your sensitive personal health information in the My Health Record database, as the three-month 'opt out' period ticks away. 

Conservative Party leader and senator for South Australia, Cory Bernardi, told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that he has 'opted out' already from being part of the My Health Record rollout, and has concerns about the government's ability to protect the data.

Minister Hunt has been assuring Australians that law enforcement agencies would need a court order to access the sensitive personal records. The Minister reportedly expects 10% of Australians to opt out of the system.

A researcher from the independent Parliamentary Library in Canberra caused a stir by contradicting the Minister, tracing the legislative history of My Health Record. His report states:

  • MyHealthRecord was created under another name by Gillard Labor initially as an 'opt in' system
  • the Abbott Coalition government converted it into an 'opt-out' system (which means your records will be included compulsorily by October if you do not 'opt out' during a 3-month window that commenced on 16 July)
  • MyHealthRecord data may be given to an ‘enforcement body’ for purposes unrelated to a person’s healthcare, which is not just all police forces but also the Immigration Department, financial regulatory authorities, crime commissions, anti-corruption bodies, and any federal or state/territory agency responsible for administering a law that imposes a penalty or sanction or a prescribed law, or a law relating to the protection of the public revenue.
  • the controlling agency can ‘use or disclose health information’ to, among other things,
    • prevent, detect, investigate or prosecute any offence, or
    • protect the public revenue (which might include investigations into potential fraud and other financial offences involving agencies such as Centrelink, Medicare, or the Australian Tax Office); or
    • prevent, detect, investigate or remedy ‘seriously improper conduct’. 

Of particular note is this statement in the report: "The Health Minister’s assertions that no one’s data can be used to ‘criminalise’ them and that ‘the Digital Health Agency has again reaffirmed today that material … can only be accessed with a court order’ seem at odds with the legislation which only requires a reasonable belief that disclosure of a person’s data is reasonably necessary to prevent, detect, investigate or prosecute a criminal offence."

An ABC data journalist has claimed the Queensland Police Union is warning its members that internal affairs investigators will be able to access their My Health Record data, despite reassurances to the contrary from the Minister. 

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