Privacy fears over public service data release

Australian Public Service Commission reviews employee census data set

The Australian Public Service Commission is reviewing a data set it released through the government’s open data portal to ensure that it can’t be used to identify individual government employees.

Fairfax Media yesterday revealed the privacy concerns over the public service employee census data set.

“The APS employee census collects attitudinal data, it is not administrative data and does not collect names or contact details,” an APSC spokesperson said in a statement.

“De-identified and significantly aggregated APS employee census data is published annually on data.gov.au. Respondents are advised of this before completing the survey.”

This year the data set included a numeric code for each government agency, though the agencies were not named.

“At no time did the APSC publish individual identifiable information in the public domain,” the spokesperson said.

“We decided that extra care should be taken to make certain that individual officers could not be identified, especially if cross referenced with a range of other publicly available data.”

Last week the Australian Privacy Commissioner has launched an investigation following revelations that doctor and other service provider ID numbers may be able to be extracted from data sets released by the Department of Health.

In response to the discovery of the vulnerativlity in the health data sets, Attorney-General George Brandis announced Privacy Act changes that will make it a crime to reidentify ostensibly deidentified government data. His announcement has raised concerns that it could have an impact on cyber security research.

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