The most-looming threat to the daily lives of billions of humans over the past decade has not been nuclear war, terrorist attacks, or slow Wi-fi. It has not been stress, depression, heart disease, or fire. It has been privacy breaches.

Now, this may seem like a particularly first-world problem — those in Syria aren’t concerned with their CommBank profile being accessed — but obviously in this day and age your privacy goes beyond mere passwords and photographs, and thanks to the Australian Government’s new My Health Record initiative, your medical records, and history are now in very real danger of being breached.

To summarise: My Health Record is basically a database with your history of health records on it, which can accessed automatically by health care professionals around the country. The idea is to streamline this information and hopefully hasten healthcare.

Many others have written about the privacy concerns of this scheme this morning, and with good reason: no digital data which exists in “the cloud” or on any computer connected to a network can ever be truly deemed safe. The Government can assuage your fear with assurances of Fort Knox-type security measures, but Government-ran computer systems are notorious clunky.

As we speak, Centrelink is embroiled in a controversy where their computers are sending out erroneously-calculated debt collection letter to benefits recipients. The 2016 Census servers collapsed immediately and were down for 40 hours, in what was found by an external report to be due to “significant and obvious oversights.” Hell, you couldn’t even file your taxes on a Mac until a few years ago.

Unrelated punk song…

Their own website’s security information is hardly comforting, with phrases such as “All personnel involved with the administration of the system undergo security checks” and “External software goes through a conformance process before it is allowed to connect to the system. This includes healthcare provider software and mobile applications.”

Is this who you want to trust with your medical records? Do you want any doctor you visit to know every past diagnosis, regardless of how faulty or irrelevant these may be.

A few weeks ago I went to a doctor to get Valium, basically. He gave me a quick Cosmo-style quiz about my mental health (my apartment had just burnt down, so I was a little on edge) then sprayed a list of alarming diagnoses at me, all of which I luckily had the common sense and self-awareness to promptly ignore. I don’t want this dude’s lazy assessment of my brain to be on a public register.

Worse, this My Health Record will be made automatically for you, unless you actively opt out. Opting out involves only two pieces of personal info (licence and Medicare card) which doesn’t bode well for their security measures at all. When submitting a rental application last week, I needed to provide more information than this – which means anyone from Crystal Realty can conceivably “opt out” of my ‘My Health Record’ if they please. Luckily, they probably won’t.

You need to opt out by October 15, otherwise this record will be made for you. Even if you decide later you don’t want one, and cancel it,  the following applies:

  • Once your record is cancelled, it will be kept for 30 years after your death or, if the date of death is unknown, for 130 years after the date of your birth.
  • It may be accessed by us for maintenance, audit and other purposes required or authorised by law.

I strongly suggest you stay in control of who can access this information. Opt out here.

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