NSW Information Commissioner releases guidance on automated decision-making, digital government and preserving information access rights to ensure the ‘Right to Know’ is future proof


Elizabeth Tydd, the NSW information commissioner, is leading a new push for shared principles of transparent, proactive and helpful public information.
Elizabeth Tydd, the NSW information commissioner, is leading a new push for shared principles of transparent, proactive and helpful public information. {Supplied)

Today, the NSW Information Commissioner released two new fact sheets dealing with automated decision-making, digital government and preserving information access rights, as part of Right to Know Week 2020.

The International Day for Universal Access to Information as recognised by the United Nations, also known as International Access to Information Day in Australia, is celebrated on 28 September 2020. In NSW, the Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) celebrates this over a week called Right to Know, which focuses on citizens’ rights to access government-held information and agencies’ responsibilities under the GIPA Act.

The right to access government information is encapsulated within Article 19 of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. During Right to Know Week NSW, the IPC engages with public sector agencies and citizens to raise awareness of a person’s right to government held information and encourage citizens to take an active interest in their right to access information.

NSW Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd said, “The 2020 theme is ‘Right to Know: Future-proofing information access rights’. Increasingly, government information is held in digital form, likewise decision-making and services are increasingly automated. The community has a right to access NSW government information in all forms and the increasing digitisation of government has implications for how governments can improve outcomes for citizens seeking access to this information”.

The ‘Guidance for Public Sector Agencies: Automated decision-making, digital government and preserving information access rights’ was released to ensure the right to know is future proof and guidance for public sector agencies.

“I have also developed and released a fact sheet for citizens dealing with automated decision-making, digital government and preserving information access rights to ensure that citizens are aware of and can more effectively access information held in digital form.”

During Right to Know Week, the NSW Information Commissioner is also taking part in the following webinar events:

  • ‘Open by Design’, hosted by the Open Government Partnership, on Monday 28 September, which is a discourse between Australian Information commissioners and ombuds and citizens about open government
  • ‘AI Transparency in Digital Government’, hosted by InfoGovANZ, on Tuesday, 29 September

“Citizens’ right to access information must be safeguarded as governments increase their use of technology and outsourcing arrangements to provide services and make decisions. Citizens must be able to obtain information about government services in whatever form they are provided,” Elizabeth Tydd said.

“It is essential that citizens, like governments, receive the benefits of new technologies and service arrangements and that their right to know is preserved under these new conditions.

“In asserting their right to access information citizens should ask three key questions:

  • How is this information held by government?
  • In what form is it held for example in an algorithm or data set?
  • How can I access that information?”

“Agencies have a duty to provide advice and assistance and they also have a duty to disclose the types of information they hold; this includes data sets, digital imaging such as CCTV, and the algorithms used in providing services and making decisions about services and benefits to citizens”, she said.

More information and resources on information access and privacy rights in NSW are available at the Information and Privacy Commission NSW website.

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