Methods for linking datasets without individual identification

Justin Warren made this Freedom of Information request to Australian Bureau of Statistics

The request was partially successful.

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Australian Bureau of Statistics,

I respectfully request the following information under Freedom of Information Act 1982:

1. Documents (including but not limited to meeting agendas, minutes, reports, emails, etc.) containing advice provided to the Australian Statistician by the ABS Chief Methodologist regarding methodologies and tools that could, should, or would be used to prevent individuals being identified when linking datasets with data from the 2016 Census. I specifically request documents in the period from 11 December 2014 to 18 December 2015, inclusive.

2. Documents listing the current set, as of the date of this request, of methodologies and tools used by ABS to ensure ABS’ legislative requirements to ensure no personal information is released in a manner likely to enable identification are met.

3. Documents that describe the process by which ABS assesses which tools and methodologies are appropriate for preventing individuals being identified when datasets are linked.

4. Documents that describe the process by which ABS adds new methodologies or tools to its range of approved methodologies or tools used to prevent individuals being identified when datasets are linked.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: Caroline Blink
Australian Bureau of Statistics

Dear Mr Warren

I refer to your application in which you seek access to documents under
the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (ABS reference FOI 201617/35)
regarding: 

o Documents (including but not limited to meeting agendas, minutes,
reports, emails, etc.) containing advice provided to the Australian
Statistician by the ABS Chief Methodologist regarding methodologies
and tools that could, should, or would be used to prevent individuals
being identified when linking datasets with data from the 2016 Census.
I specifically request documents in the period from 11 December 2014
to 18 December 2015, inclusive.
o Documents listing the current set, as of the date of this request, of
methodologies and tools used by ABS to ensure ABS’ legislative
requirements to ensure no personal information is released in a manner
likely to enable identification are met.
o Documents that describe the process by which ABS assesses which tools
and methodologies are appropriate for preventing individuals being
identified when datasets are linked.
o Documents that describe the process by which ABS adds new
methodologies or tools to its range of approved methodologies or tools
used to prevent individuals being identified when datasets are linked.

Your request was received by the ABS on 25 August 2016 and the 30 days
statutory period for processing your request commenced from that date.  If
this request will take longer than 30 days to process, we will contact you
to negotiate an extension of time.

You will be notified of any charges in accordance with the Freedom of
Information (Fees and Charges) Regulations, should they apply, in relation
to your request as soon as practicable.
Regards
Dr Caroline Blink

FOI Contact Officer 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 

(P) (02) 6252 7203 

(E) [1][ABS request email]   (W)  [2]www.abs.gov.au

Dear Australian Bureau of Statistics,

I respectfully request the following information under Freedom of
Information Act 1982:

1. Documents (including but not limited to meeting agendas, minutes,
reports, emails, etc.) containing advice provided to the Australian
Statistician by the ABS Chief Methodologist regarding methodologies and
tools that could, should, or would be used to prevent individuals being
identified when linking datasets with data from the 2016 Census. I
specifically request documents in the period from 11 December 2014 to 18
December 2015, inclusive.

2. Documents listing the current set, as of the date of this request, of
methodologies and tools used by ABS to ensure ABS’ legislative
requirements to ensure no personal information is released in a manner
likely to enable identification are met.

3. Documents that describe the process by which ABS assesses which tools
and methodologies are appropriate for preventing individuals being
identified when datasets are linked.

4. Documents that describe the process by which ABS adds new methodologies
or tools to its range of approved methodologies or tools used to prevent
individuals being identified when datasets are linked.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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Please use this email address for all replies to this request:
[FOI #2166 email]

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Information requests to Australian Bureau of Statistics? If so, please
contact us using this form:
[3]https://www.righttoknow.org.au/change_re...

This request has been made by an individual using Right to Know. This
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More information on how Right to Know works can be found at:
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From: Josh Norman
Australian Bureau of Statistics


Attachment FOI201617 35 Practical Refusal Letter.pdf
843K Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Warren,

This email refers to your FOI request (201617-35) received on 25 August
2016.

The purpose of this email is to advise you, as required under Section 24AB
of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) that a practical refusal
reason exists under Section 24AA of the FOI Act in relation to your
request.

The reasons for this practical refusal and the actions required by you are
set out in the attached letter.

(See attached file: FOI201617-35 - Practical Refusal Letter.pdf)

The FOI Act requires that you respond to this notice before the end of the
consultation period, which is 23 September 2016.

Kind regards,

FOI Contact Officer

Australian Bureau of Statistics

(P) (02) 6252 7203

(E) [1][ABS request email]   (W)  [2]www.abs.gov.au

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear ABS/Alexia,

Thanks for your phonecall today.

As discussed, we agree that there is confusion on both sides about what the ABS response to my FOI request actually means. We discussed what I'm requesting, and you agreed it doesn't seem terribly opaque.

You advised that since you're not privy to particular knowledge of what I'm asking for, which does tend towards specialised information about statistical techniques, you'll seek out someone who can help us to mutually write down what I'm seeking so that it's clear to everyone at ABS what my request is about.

As discussed, our respective work schedules means any conversation or correspondence is unlikely to occur for approximately a week, and this is acceptable to me. I've supplied my direct email address and phone number so that we can hone this request to something workable and agreeable to both parties.

I'm sure we'll be able to quickly clarify this request so that ABS is able to respond in full, and that I am able to obtain the information I seek.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Australian Bureau of Statistics,

Just confirming publicly that we are still discussing the amended scope of my request and clarifying the information that I am seeking to obtain.

I thank you for highlighting the following publicly available information that is related to my request in your email of 30 September 2016:

As discussed in our meeting this morning, here is a link to a technical document that describes protections applied to release of aggregate data outputs

https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/stat...

The other document that might be useful is this one on use of ABS microdata.

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/...

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: Caroline Blink
Australian Bureau of Statistics


Attachment FOI 201617 35 Notification of Charges.pdf
3.9M Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Warren

Please find attached the estimate of charges for your Freedom of
Information (FOI) request.  
(See attached file: FOI 201617-35 Notification of Charges.pdf)

If you have any queries regarding this matter please contact the ABS FOI
Contact Officer at [1][ABS request email] or on (02) 6252
7203.
Kind Regards

FOI Contact Officer

Policy, Legislation and Assurance  |  Governance and Parliamentary Liaison
Branch  |  Australian Bureau of Statistics

(P) (02) 6252 7203  (E) [2][ABS request email] (W) 
[3]www.abs.gov.au

The [4]ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS handles any personal
information that you provide to us.

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Australian Bureau of Statistics,

Thank you for agreeing to release the information I have requested.

I contend that access to the documents requested is in the general public interest or in the interest of a substantial section of the public, and that the charges should not be imposed, for the following reasons:

- There is widespread public interest in the conduct of the 2016 Census, particularly the decision to retain names and addresses and the impact on personal privacy.
- The documents I have requested will help to provide much needed context around the decision to retain names and addresses, and the safeguards the ABS has in place to maintain individual privacy.
- The ABS has not, thus far, done a particularly good job of explaining how it manages data security and privacy. There is plenty of evidence for this fact, not least the comparisons the ABS itself has made with other jurisdictions (like New Zealand and the UK) where more substantial use of data linkage is made with greater public support.
- The ABS has an opportunity to here to help build up public support for use of Census data in linkage projects, and to correct a perception that it is secretive and arrogant by showing how transparent and open it can be.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

Mr Warren, you have made a mistake that might cost you a lot of money. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has not agreed to release any information at all. The charges that are imposed by the letter from the bureau are charges for the cost of making a decision.

After you have paid the money, then the documents will be collected together and read by the decision maker and then a decision will be made. The decision could be to refuse you access to the information you have requested.

Also, I must warn you about a mistake some people have made. They look at the letter and think, "I will pay only the deposit. Then I will wait for the decision and if I do not like the decision then I will not pay the rest." This is a very serious mistake for the reason I now explain. When you pay the deposit you enter a contract with the Commonwealth; the contract obliges you to pay the full amount eventually. If you try to squeeze away from paying the full amount when you do not like the decision, the Commonwealth will yet want the money. It will be exactly like a situation where you have a taxation debt; the Commonwealth will come to you to get its money exactly the same way.

So, I advise you to think very carefully before you pay anything at all.

Jeg ønsker dig held og lykke.

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From: Caroline Blink
Australian Bureau of Statistics

Dear Mr Warren

I refer to your email of 21 November 2016 in which you sought an internal
review of the decision made under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI
Act) relating to your FOI request (ABS reference FOI 201617/35).

Your request was received by the ABS on 21 November 2016 and the 30 days
statutory period for review commenced from that date.

You will be notified of the outcome of this review in line with statutory
time frames.

Kind Regards

FOI Contact Officer 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 

(P) (02) 6252 7203 

(E) [1][ABS request email]   (W)  [2]www.abs.gov.au

The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS handles any personal
information that you provide to us.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[ABS request email]
2. http://www.abs.gov.au/

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Caroline Blink,

I wish to supplement my earlier email regarding reasons to waive the charges to process my FOI request.

Today's release of the Australian Senate Economics References Committee report into the 2016 Census (2016 Census: issues of trust) makes for interesting reading.

Chapter 5 is particularly relevant to my request, and I would like to draw your attention to paragraph 5.45 in particular, which states:

"To build community confidence and buy-in in this initiative, the ABS will have to be open with the community regarding how the data is protected, the way data linkages work, and also inform the community immediately when data has been compromised."

I trust that the ABS will embrace the Commitee's recommendations towards greater openness with the community.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: Irene Nicolaou


Attachment image001.png
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Our reference: RQ16/05415

Agency reference: FOI 201617/35

Mr Justin Warren

 

By email: [1][FOI #2166 email]

Dear Mr Warren

Extension of time request under s15AB

On 14 December 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) requested
further time to make a decision on your FOI request of 25 August 2016.

This request was on the basis that the processing period is insufficient
to deal adequately with your request, because it is complex or voluminous.

The Information Commissioner has decided to grant the ABS an extension of
time to process your request to 23 January 2017. This decision has been
made under s15AB(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (the FOI
Act).

By granting further time it is anticipated that the ABS will provide a
well-reasoned and better managed decision.

Contact

If you have any questions regarding this email, please contact me on 02
9284 9605 or via email [email address]. Please quote OAIC
reference number above in all correspondence.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Irene Nicolaou | Assistant Investigation and Review Officer | Freedom of
Information Dispute Resolution

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, SYDNEY NSW 2000

GPO Box 5128 SYDNEY NSW 2001| [2]www.oaic.gov.au

Phone:  +61 2 9284 9605 | E-mail: [3][email address]

 

Protecting information rights – advancing information policy

 

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From: Danielle Gillett
Australian Bureau of Statistics


Attachment FOI 201617 35 IR Response.pdf
1.0M Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Warren,

I refer to your application of 21 November 2016, in which you requested an
Internal Review of Charges under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI
Act) regarding the decision made by Ms Williams in relation to your FOI
Request (FOI 201617/35).

 Please find attached the formal response from the ABS, should you have
any questions regarding this please feel free to contact the ABS FOI
Contact Officer on: 02 6252 7203 or email:
[1][ABS request email]

(See attached file: FOI 201617-35 IR Response.pdf)

Kind Regards

Danielle Gillett

FOI Contact Officer 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 

(P) (02) 6252 7203 

(E) [2][ABS request email]   (W)  [3]www.abs.gov.au

The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS handles any personal
information that you provide to us.

References

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From: Wolfgang Hertel
Australian Bureau of Statistics


Attachment FOI 201617 35 Decision Letter.pdf
3.8M Download View as HTML


Dear Mr Warren

In response to your FOI request received on 8 November 2016, please find
attached the formal response from the ABS.

Should you have any questions regarding this please feel free to contact
the ABS FOI Contact Officer on: 02 6252 7203 or email:
[1][ABS request email]

(See attached file: FOI 201617-35 - Decision Letter.pdf)

Kind Regards

FOI Contact Officer 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 

(P) (02) 6252 7203 

(E) [2][ABS request email]   (W)  [3]www.abs.gov.au

The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS handles any personal
information that you provide to us.

References

Visible links
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2. mailto:[ABS request email]
3. http://www.abs.gov.au/

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