Privacy concerns over Packer's database

A massive data warehouse containing information on more than 15 million Australians is nearing completion.

Created through a joint venture between Kerry Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) and US company Acxiom, the warehouse will include information from credit and financial sources, retail and purchasing organisations, post office lists and electoral rolls.

Additional information will also come from PBL associated companies, Channel Nine, ninemsn, Crown Casino and Ticketek.

Based on a similar Acxiom database operating in the US and containing information on 95 per cent of Americans, the data warehouse will be operational as early as Christmas. It is expected the database will constantly grow in size and complexity.

News of the data warehouse has raised concerns over privacy issues for Australian consumers.

Malcolm Crompton, federal privacy commissioner, said more questions regarding plans for the database needed to answered.

"There is no question that data warehouses, especially ones in the US, have done the wrong thing - there's no question that it happens," Crompton said.

"I'm saying I wouldn't have a clue [about Acxiom] yet."

Crompton said if Acxiom has collected information with consent, the data warehouse could be used as a business to business service or relationship building tool.

Amendments to Australia's current privacy legislation, which covers federal public sector agencies are expected to be discussed during next year's first parliamentary sitting.

The changes to the privacy law will require private sector organisations to follow similar legislation to the public sector, Crompton said.

Acxiom did not respond to IDG's phone calls by deadline.

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