The Federal Government’s data-management agenda got another boost with the appointment of an interim National Data Commissioner (NDC) to steer the government’s push towards broader sharing and protection of data.

A public servant for more than 20 years, Deborah Anton spent three years as deputy director general, policy and corporate with IP Australia, where she functioned as a chief operating officer and acted as privacy, data, and indigenous champion across the agency.

She previously worked on innovation programs with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science as head of AusIndustry and branch manager of DIIS’s Competitive Industries Branch.

At CERT Australia, she managed implementation of the 2008 Cyber Security Review and the ongoing Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT).

In her new role, Anton “will work closely with the privacy commissioner to help strengthen safeguards around the integrity, management and use of government held data,” Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan – also the minister assisting the prime minister for digital transformation – said in a statement.

Expected deliverables include the formalisation of a Data Sharing and Release Act that will standardise privacy and secrecy controls across government departments, putatively to facilitate decisions about which data is safe to release and which must be protected.

Data is increasingly seen as a driver of economic growth and the government’s latest move is an effort to formalise that.

It follows on from a series of changes in the government’s broad data-related industry engagements, which also include ongoing work to reform the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC); the implementation of the notifiable data breaches (NDB) scheme under the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC); the increasingly prolific work of industry-development body the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network (AustCyber); and the consolidation and development of the government’s cyber security capabilities within the Department of Home Affairs.

Driving a bigger data agenda

The government’s increasingly complex data agenda is likely to keep Anton busy.

It has been spearheaded through the site – which now has over 29,700 discoverable assets and 6500 API-reachable data assets – but has increasingly strengthened its focus on data protection as the government pushes towards adoption of its portable electronic My Health Record (MHR).

Concerns over data security and privacy have led many to opt out of MHR in the run-up to its November 15 deadline, which was extended from October 15 after widespread public outcry.

More than 20,000 chose to opt out on the first day the option was available.

Responsible minister for health Greg Hunt also announced legislative changes to close loopholes in the data, including control over how aggregated healthcare data can potentially be accessed by law-enforcement authorities and other third parties.

Those change reflect the government’s changing approach to protecting sensitive data whilst simultaneously facilitating its release.

A broader Consumer Data Right (CDR), to be implemented from July 2019, will facilitate the introduction of an Open Banking regime to control individuals’ access to personal data held by financial institutions; other industries will follow.