The Queensland Government is seeking to lead the way in digital government as part of its "Digital1st" digital strategy for 2017 to 2021. The government predicts millions of dollars a year in savings through projects such as digital hospitals, use of drone technology to assist in turtle rehabilitation and new technology for emergency services.

The Government is also looking at projects like digital driver's licences, with a trial of a digital licence app due to be released in the Fraser Coast region in the coming months.

However, with the push to use digital technology comes a number of challenges to ensure that data is used properly and citizens' privacy is protected. Already there have been challenges in the Government's digital hospital projects, with concerns that Queensland Health's integrated electronic medical record software was causing a spike in mislabelling of blood tests.

Following privacy concerns relating to the introduction of My Health Record nationally, the focus is on ensuring these new technologies are used in the right way, without jeopardising patient privacy.

In this light, Queensland's current privacy regime presents potential concerns. The Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) provides a regime that is generally seen to be in need of review and updating, particularly in light of global privacy standards having been lifted to a much higher bar recently through introduction of the European General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and other similar regimes. Notably, the Commonwealth Government's intention is to amend the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) to bring in higher penalties more in line with GDPR, even though it was last updated more recently (in 2018) than the Queensland legislation.

However, it should be noted that there has been a potential increase in privacy protection for Queenslanders with the enactment of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld), which provides protection from unlawful or arbitrary interference by government with a person's privacy.

Another key area for government to consider in relation to privacy relates to emerging technologies such as drones. Current regimes are not designed to apply to this type of technology, and leave citizens uncertain as to their rights and obligations in relation to potential invasions of privacy by drones.

A further key question for the government is the emerging area of data ethics – reflecting the increasing focus not on simply "can data be collected and used?", but on the question of "should data be collected and used?" In the light of a significant drop in trust by consumers generally, prompted by significant data breaches on an almost daily basis, a strong approach on ethical collection of data can be a significant step in restoring that trust.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.