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Proposed Data Protection Bill - good or bad?

Written by Jessie Hamill-Stewart on 15 August 2017

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If the proposed Data Protection Bill goes ahead as planned, it will cause an outcry from researchers.

The bill is proposed to protect the privacy of internet users and will make the clause to ‘intentionally or recklessly re-identify individuals from anonymised or pseudonymised data’ a criminal offence. Additionally, the fine is set to be a penalty with an unlimited maximum. Journalists and whistle-blowers, but not researchers, will be exempt.

In 2006, it was anonymised data that revealed affairs, illnesses and criminal activity, as a result of cross-referencing with phonebook listings. It was a clear privacy invasion, but begs the question why are people unhappy about this long-needed law.

Lukasz Olejnik, a cybersecurity and privacy researcher, claims the new bill would criminalise research which is happening to prevent these breaches of privacy. Melbourne University researchers note how it would prevent researchers from reaching these breaches before criminals or others who would abuse this power, and also stop the researchers from reaching the government with these breaches.  

However, Matt Hancock, Digital Minister, expects this ‘new data protection bill will give us one of the most robust, yet dynamic, sets of data laws in the world’.

I look forward to seeing the outcome of this debate. 

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