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Data.NSW proudly celebrates and supports Privacy Awareness Week from 3 to 9 May 2021. This year, the theme is “Make Privacy a Priority”.

At Data.NSW, we make government data open, accessible and discoverable. Right now, users can explore over 15,000 datasets via the portal.

We also make sure that people’s privacy is respected, and that personal or sensitive information is properly protected, when data is used, shared and published. 

One of the most important ways we do this is by applying the Personal Information Factor (PIF) tool to the COVID-19 cases and tests datasets, which we work with NSW Health to make available.

What is the PIF tool and why is it important?

The NSW Government, in collaboration with State and Commonwealth government agencies, research organisations and industry, has jointly developed a privacy tool, the PIF tool that assists us in assessing the risk of an individual being re-identified in a dataset. 

This allows us to protect individuals’ privacy, by implementing targeted measures to minimise the re-identification risk, before publishing the open data. 
 

PIF Tool
(Figure 1: PIF Tool. High sensitivity, high PIF data is transformed to reduce the PIF before it is released as open data.)

“Risk of re-identification is one of the major concerns data custodians have when considering sharing or releasing data,” says Dr Ian Oppermann, the NSW Government’s Chief Data Scientist.

“Whilst it is still maturing, the PIF tool gives us a quantifiable measure of how much information we are working with in a data set, and a measure of that risk. 

“We have been using the tool every day for more than a year now, and steadily maturing our knowledge of data sharing and use with real world experience.”

Since March 2020, we have checked the COVID-19 cases and tests data every day using the PIF tool, to assess the risk of identifying an individual in these datasets. This risk increases as the number of cases and tests decreases.

Occasionally, the release of data is delayed to allow time for enough cases or tests to accumulate and be reportable. This delay ensures that the privacy of cases or people tested is maintained.  

Feedback and further information

If you have any questions or feedback you would like to share, please reach out to us at datansw@customerservice.nsw.gov.au.   

For more information about Privacy Awareness Week, visit the Information and Privacy Commission’s (IPC) website: https://www.ipc.nsw.gov.au/PAW2021.

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