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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


What is statistical data integration?

Statistical data integration involves bringing together data from different sources, at the unit level (i.e. for an individual person or organisation) or micro level (e.g. information for a small geographic area), to enable analysis of a combined set of information for statistical and research purposes.


What is the purpose of data integration undertaken by the ABS?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) only undertakes data integration for statistical and research purposes. This means that the data is used to describe characteristics of groups within the population, and relationships that might exist between variables such as social, economic and environmental conditions, behaviours and outcomes. The integrated data is not used for regulatory or compliance purposes.


What is an integrating authority?

An integrating authority is the single agency ultimately accountable for the implementation of a data integration project undertaken for statistical and research purposes. The integrating authority must ensure that risks are assessed, managed and mitigated throughout the duration of the project, in line with the agreed requirements of the data custodians who contribute datasets to the project. An integrating authority must be nominated for all data integration projects involving Commonwealth data for statistical and research purposes.


Does my personal information get used in data integration projects?

Each data integration project has unique requirements for personal information. Some projects use name and address information in order to link records from different datasets together, while others use common variables such as student identification numbers or Australian Business Numbers to link records together.


How is my privacy protected?

Linked data can be a powerful but sensitive source of information. The ABS has strong safeguards in place to protect identifiable information such as name and address, and these have been independently audited. These safeguards are backed by legislation (the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and the Privacy Act 1988). Only those staff that have a need to view identifiable information as part of their duties have access to it, and only for a limited period of time. No information is released by the ABS in such a way that identifiable information compiled through linking can be associated with a specific person. This prohibition on release of identifiable information resulting from linking of datasets by the ABS is absolute - extending to all other parts of Government as well as the business and research communities.

More information on the safeguards placed on privacy are available on the ABS website.


Where can I find information about ABS data integration projects?

All ABS data integration projects are registered on the online Commonwealth Data Integration Project Public Register under the Integrating Authority view. The ABS also publishes information about its data integration projects on the ABS website. A set of publication links is provided in the section below.


What is the difference between a Statistical Study and a Feasibility or Quality Study?

A Quality Study (also known as a feasibility study) is an experimental study that tests the ability to link two more datasets together.

Quality Studies aim:

  • to assess the quality of, and provide a benchmark for, data integration projects that do not make use of name and address; and
  • to assess the data integration methodology to improve processes for future data integration projects.

Where used, name and address collected for a quality study will be destroyed at the end of the processing period, and the linked datasets created for the quality study will be deleted once the purpose of the project has been fulfilled. While some analysis of the data may be published to demonstrate quality, no official statistics are published from these studies.

A Statistical Study links two or more datasets together, with the aim of creating an enhanced dataset to be used for statistical and research purposes. The linkage is performed without using name and address information. The data produced from a statistical study are considered to be official statistics for statistical and research purposes.


OTHER INFORMATION AVAILABLE ON DATA INTEGRATION

Information about data integration involving Commonwealth data is available on the National Statistical Service website.

Information about the data integration projects using the 2011 Census of Population and Housing can be found in Census Data Enhancement Project: An Update, October 2010 (ABS cat. no. 2062.0)

Results from initial investigations of data integration methods are available through Research Paper: Methodology of Evaluating the Quality of Probabilistic Linking (ABS cat. no. 1350.0.55.018)


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