Supply of Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits records to Australian Bureau of Statistics

Justin Warren made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Health

The request was successful.

From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear Department of Health,

In the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Annual Report for 2014-15, there is an article about an ABS project (the Project) to integrate Census data with anonymised Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits datasets (Chapter 3, "Unlocking the power of statistics: mental health services use and outcomes").

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

1. Documents containing correspondence with the ABS regarding the Project and the participation of the Department of Health.

2. A copy of any Privacy Impact Assessment that was performed relating to the Project.

3. Documents containing correspondence with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) relating to the Project.

4. Documents that refer to the scope and scale of the information provided to the ABS by the Department for the Project, i.e. the number of people's data that was provided, the total number of records, and the fields in each dataset that were supplied (e.g. name, address, condition, drugs prescribed, etc.). This is the metadata of the dataset(s).

5. Documents discussing the reason the dataset and/or the fields within the datasets were required for the Project.

6. Documents describing the process and techniques used to anonymise the datasets, such as the creation of linkage keys, including the algorithm(s) used to generate linkage keys.

7. Documents the discuss obtaining informed consent from those whose data was to be supplied; how that consent was obtained; or why consent was not obtained and the justification for not obtaining consent.

The data in the Medicare and PBS records systems contain sensitive information concerning a large proportion of the Australian population. I believe there is a strong public interest in releasing this information under FOI.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI
Department of Health

Dear Mr Warren

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST – NOTIFICATION OF RECEIPT

I am writing to notify you that the Department of Health (Department) has received your request (in your below email) for access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

The Department will take all reasonable steps to notify you of a decision no later than 30 calendar days after the date your request was received. You will be contacted where a charge is applied for processing your request or if we need to consult a third party.

Unless you advise otherwise, duplicate documents and Commonwealth employee names and contact details below Senior Executive Service level and mobile telephone numbers of all staff will be excluded from the scope of your request under s22(1)(b)(ii) of the FOI Act.

You can contact the FOI Unit on (02) 6289 1666, or via email at [email address], should you have any enquiries.

Kind regards
FOI Officer

FOI Unit
Ministerial, Parliamentary, Executive Support and Governance Branch
People, Capability and Communication Division
Australian Government Department of Health
T: (02) 6289 1666 | E: [Health request email]

PO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

The Department of Health acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to elders both past and present.

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From: FOI
Department of Health


Attachment image001.png
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Attachment s24AB Notice of Consultation FOI 035 1617.pdf
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Attention:  Justin Warren

 

Please see attached correspondence in relation to your FOI request to the
Department of Health.

 

Kind regards

FOI Officer

[1]cid:image002.png@01D152AA.D704F7C0

Ministerial, Parliamentary, Executive Support and Governance Branch

People, Capability and Communication Division

Australian Government Department of Health

T: (02) 6289 1666 | E: [2][Health request email]

 

PO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

 

The Department of Health acknowledges the traditional owners of country
throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and
community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to elders
both past and present.

 

 

 

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI/Rowena,

As we discussed, I'm happy to amend the request to reduce the scope to items 4,5,6, and 7. I'm most interested in the decision making around obtaining informed consent from people whose data was used, the scale/scope of data provided, and how the information was anonymised and otherwise kept protected.

Feel free to call me once you've discussed the suggested amended scope with the decision maker, as I'm keen to make this FOI request workable while still obtaining useful information.

You said that the Privacy Impact Assessment was not undertaken by the Department of Health, and was most likely performed by the Commission, so I'll take that aspect up with them, as well as the correspondence with OAIC about it.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI
Department of Health

Good Afternoon Mr Warren,

This email is to confirm the revised scope you have provided removes ground for refusal under s24 of the FOI Act. The Department of Health will now process your request as per the following:

"In the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Annual Report for 2014-15, there is an article about an ABS project (the Project) to integrate Census data with anonymised Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits datasets (Chapter 3, "Unlocking the power of statistics mental health services use and outcomes"). I respectfully request the following information under Freedom of Information Act 1982:

1. Documents that refer to the scope and scale of the information
provided to the ABS by the Department for the Project, i.e. the
number of people's data that was provided, the total number of
records, and the fields in each dataset that were supplied (e.g.
name, address, condition, drugs prescribed, etc.). This is the
metadata of the dataset(s).

2. Documents discussing the reason the dataset and/or the fields
within the datasets were required for the Project.

3. Documents describing the process and techniques used to
anonymise the datasets, such as the creation of linkage keys,
including the algorithm(s) used to generate linkage keys.

4. Documents the discuss obtaining informed consent from those
whose data was to be supplied; how that consent was obtained; or
why consent was not obtained and the justification for not
obtaining consent."

The processing time for your request will recommence from today. Your request is now due for a decision by 21 September 2016.

Regards,

Nicole
FOI Unit

Ministerial, Parliamentary, Executive Support and Governance Branch
People, Capability and Communication Division
Australian Government Department of Health
T: 02 6289 1666 | E: [Health request email]

PO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

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From: FOI
Department of Health


Attachment image002.png
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Attachment FOI 035 1617 Notice of Liability to Pay a Charge.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your FOI request to the
Department of Health.

 

Kind Regards,

 

FOI Officer

[1]cid:image002.png@01D152AA.D704F7C0

Ministerial, Parliamentary, Executive Support and Governance Branch

People, Capability and Communication Division

Australian Government Department of Health

T: 02 6289 1666 | E: [2][Health request email]

 

PO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI Officer,

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:

- Medicare is a national system that is available for use by all Australian citizens.
- The information that was supplied to the ABS is highly personal: Australian citizens' medical information.
- The amount of information supplied to ABS is likely to have related to at least a substantial section of the public in order to be statistically relevant.
- A survey by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in 2013 (https://www.oaic.gov.au/engage-with-us/c... found that 97% of Australians would consider it a misuse of their personal information if they supplied it to one organisation for a specific purpose and it was used for another purpose.
- The public outcry concerning this year's Census has, in part, been driven by concern for how the ABS links Census data to other datasets, like this Medicare and PBS dataset. These documents will shed some light on how this is done. Hopefully these documents will help to demonstrate that personal information is handled with the utmost care, and can allay these public concerns.
- The ability to trust government institutions with personal information is very much in the public interest. If this trust is eroded, it can directly affect the ability of those organisations to serve the public.

If you contend that access to the documents is not in the general public interest or in the interest of a substantial section of the public, I ask that you explain why this is so. I further ask that you supply evidence that supports your position.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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From: FOI
Department of Health

Dear Mr Warren,

Thank you for your email. I note that you are seeking the charges related to this request to be waived as access to the documents is in the interest of the general public or a substantial section of the public.

Pursuant to the FOI Act we will provide a decision on this matter no later than 19 October 2016.

Regards,

FOI Officer

Ministerial, Parliamentary, Executive Support and Governance Branch
People, Capability and Communication Division
Australian Government Department of Health
T: 02 6289 1666 | E: [Health request email]

PO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

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From: FOI
Department of Health


Attachment image002.png
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Attachment FOI 035 1617 Waiver of Charges Decision.pdf
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Dear Mr Warren,

 

Please find attached correspondence in relation to your FOI request to
the  Department of Health.

 

Kind Regards,

 

 

Nicole

FOI Unit

[1]cid:image002.png@01D152AA.D704F7C0

Ministerial, Parliamentary, Executive Support and Governance Branch

People, Capability and Communication Division

Australian Government Department of Health

T: 02 6289 1666| E: [2][Health request email]

 

PO Box 9848, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia

 

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From: Justin Warren

Delivered

Dear FOI,

This is to publicly confirm that I have paid the requested charges, and look forward to receiving the requested documents at the email address provided to you when I paid.

Yours sincerely,

Justin Warren

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Justin Warren left an annotation ()

I received the documents, and have uploaded them to Google Drive here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0...

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Department of Health only: