Monday, 3 August 2009

There have been a slew of letters

to the editor about Telstra's new charge for customers. This charge has nothing to do with the service they provide. It is the charge for - wait for it - paying your bill.
You can avoid this charge if you pay 'on-line' or by 'direct debit'. You cannot avoid the charge if you pay with old-fashioned cash.
A lot of people are angry about it - and rightly so. Nobody should be penalised for paying a bill.
Cash is still legal. It may be old fashioned but it is still legal. Some people prefer it. Some people need it. Not everyone has access to other means.
All that aside however there is another, much larger problem, with Telstra's move. It is yet another demand to make what should be private information available. There is no such thing as 'internet' security. Some things may be more secure than others. There may be safeguards in place but the moment something goes on line it has the potential to be used by others, often illegally used by others. The moment I do my banking on line I open up my bank details to someone else. If I pay something by direct debit then the bank also knows which company I am doing business with and how much I pay them.
There is nothing particularly secret about our telephone bill. It is, as telephone bills go, fairly ordinary. The same might be said of all our other bills. They are, however, our bills. They are not the property of other people.
All this however pales into insignificance against government moves to make medical records available on line. They claim this will reduce 'fraud', 'doctor-shopping' and any number of other evils. They claim this will allow patients greater access to information and, when necessary, other doctors similar access. It will all, we are assured, be completely secure. Nobody else will be able to access that information without our consent.
What a lot of nonsense. The moment it goes on line it will potentially be available to anyone. Doctors will become extremely cautious in their comments for fear of litigation. misdiagnosis and miscommunication.
Privacy legislation? What privacy legislation?

1 comment:

Holly said...

There is no question that some information on line is a real problem. Especially medical. In my system ever since all the mental health professionals were told to put the information in the computer record system and to stop keeping private files they have nothing useful. No one is going to trust (and rightly so) any computer with sensitive information.

On line banking? I love it - lets me manage cards and accounts in other countries. Nothing is ever secure, but most banks are better than the government about protecting information.