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Microsoft to Aussie gov: Privacy rules stifle e-Health

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Microsoft has told the Australian government that its focus on storing electronic health records within Australia’s borders “could have a detrimental effect” on security.

The Microsoft statements come in a submission to the government’s inquiry into the legislation needed to introduce PCEHRs – personally controllable electronic health records.

One of the requirements of the proposed legislation is that the records remain within Australia. “The rationale [for the data location provisions] is not the security of data or the privacy of consumers,” the submission states. As a result, it says, the requirement that the PCEHRs be controlled by a “local operator” and that records must not be taken outside of Australia are a “structural weakness” in the system.

Microsoft also darkly threatens trade obligations, saying that the localization requirements “could be interpreted as Australia taking a step away from its commitment to being an open trading nation”, since the provisions “could be viewed as non-tariff barriers to commercial engagement”.

Without explaining how its alternative proposals would protect Australian data from the more insane characteristics of data siezure laws in other countries – such as America’s PATRIOT Act – MS says cryptography and its own “best practices” would provide better security than merely keeping data within Australia.

The company does, however, make a remark that might chill, rather than thaw, a government’s willingness to deal with multinationals in the e-health market:

“Any company with a presence in the United States of America (not just those with headquarters or subsidiaries in that country) may be legally required to respond to a valid demand from the United States Government for information the company retains custody over or controls, regardless of where the data is stored or the existence of any conflicting obligations under the laws of the country where the data is located,” the submission states. ®

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