MADIP - FAQs
 

PROJECT OVERVIEW
What is the MADIP?
What value has the MADIP delivered?

AUTHORITY
What is the legal authority for the project?
Who approved the project?
What is the governance for the project?

CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY
How is privacy protected?
How is the data linked?
Will the project data be retained?
Who has access to the project data?
How is the data kept secure?

PROJECT OVERVIEW

What is the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP)?

The MADIP is a partnership between Australian Government agencies. It demonstrates how to maximise the value of existing public sector data for policy analysis, research, and statistical purposes, in a safe and secure way.

The MADIP combines existing data on Medicare benefit claims, government payments, and income tax with the 2011 Census to create a linked dataset that provides a high quality snapshot of Australia in 2011.

The MADIP was designed to test the feasibility and value of bringing together important national datasets to help agencies and analysts address complex policy and service delivery questions. Now in an evaluation phase, the preliminary analysis has demonstrated the MADIP has significant potential to improve Australians’ lives by facilitating better targeting of services such as health and education, and by enabling people and businesses to make more informed decisions.

What value has the MADIP delivered?

The MADIP has sought to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of integrated public data to safely and securely provide a more comprehensive picture of Australia and its people. This integrated data can be used to help tackle complex policy and service delivery challenges.

By addressing gaps in our knowledge about how government policies and programs interact, the project has demonstrated the ability to provide essential information which will enable governments to spend resources more effectively, improve policy planning, and assist program design – benefitting all Australians.

Now in an evaluation phase, preliminary analysis of the project has demonstrated the linked data has significant potential to improve Australians’ lives by facilitating better targeting of services such as health and education, and by enabling people and businesses to make more informed decisions.

This is consistent with the experience of others undertaking similar data integration projects.

AUTHORITY

What is the legal authority for the project?

Each of the agencies has provided data to the ABS for the purposes of the project in accordance with their legislative obligations.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 (Cth) gives the ABS the authority to integrate data from a range of sources and to support the maximum usage of these data by official bodies for statistical and research purposes. Additionally, the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (Cth) applies to data brought into the ABS for the purposes of the project. The secrecy provisions of the Census and Statistics Act offer strong legislative protections which ensure personal information remains strictly confidential.

Who approved the project?

The project was approved in May 2015 by the Cross-Portfolio Data Integration Oversight Board, an inter-departmental committee of senior public servants responsible for managing the Commonwealth arrangements for statistical data integration.

The project has the strong support of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Treasury, and the Australian Statistics Advisory Council.

What is the governance for the project?

The Secretaries Data Group replaced the Cross Portfolio Data Integration Oversight Board in November 2015 and has oversight of data integration involving Commonwealth data for statistical and research purposes. This project forms part of the Public Sector Data Management agenda driven by the Deputy Secretaries Data Group, which reports to the Secretaries Data Group.

The MADIP is an Australian Government cross-portfolio partnership involving six agencies: the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Education and Training, the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Social Services.

A Project Board composed of senior representatives from the parties sets the strategic direction of the project and is responsible for project implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY

How is privacy protected?

The MADIP complies with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and with the legislative requirements of each participating agency.

Project data is subject to the protections of the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (Cth), which ensures that no data will be released in a manner that will enable an individual or organisation to be identified. Breach of these provisions incurs severe penalties including fines of up to $25,200 or imprisonment for two years, or both.

No person can access personal identifying information (e.g. name, address, date of birth) and analytical information (e.g. occupation, income, health services use) at the same time. This is known as the separation principle. Additionally, datasets containing personal information are stored securely and separate from datasets containing analytical information.

Personal information is supplied separately from other data and is only used for linkage. The linked data available for analysis is de-identified, meaning it does not contain names and addresses.

Adherence to Australian Government standards for information, personnel, and physical security are maintained. Access to data is restricted to a need-to-know basis, and other well-established protective measures such as electronic monitoring of individuals’ access to and use of data will be used to safeguard the privacy security of project data.

How is the data linked?

Data linkage takes place in a secure environment within the ABS, conducted by a dedicated data linkage unit.

Experience shows that using name and address information is crucial to achieving high quality linkage between administrative datasets, and thus high quality integrated datasets.

Name and address information from the administrative datasets have been used to create anonymised linkage keys which were subsequently used to link data. The original names and addresses which were used in creating these keys could not be accessed by officers conducting the linkage. Name and address information from the 2011 Census was not used, as names and addresses were permanently destroyed following the completion of Census processing. Name and address information from the administrative datasets, and the anonymised linkage keys, are not available to officers analysing the linked data.

The linked data available for analysis is de-identified, meaning it does not contain names and addresses.

Will the project data be retained?

The project data will be retained securely and will be used for evaluation and to inform approaches to making better use of existing public data. This is consistent with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and the relevant legislation of the participating agencies.

Who has access to the project data?

A small team of data experts has been seconded into the ABS from government agencies to access and evaluate the linked data within a secure environment. These staff are subject to stringent secrecy requirements under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (Cth), and have each signed a lifetime undertaking of fidelity and secrecy. Breach of these provisions incurs severe penalties including fines of up to $25,200 and/or imprisonment for up to 2 years.

Once the evaluation of the MADIP has been completed it is expected that access to integrated public data will be broadened to other government agencies, universities, and research institutions within Australia. In addition, selected project findings will be released publicly.

Project data can never be accessed or released in a way that would allow an individual or organisation to be identified.

How is the data kept secure?

The ABS maintains practices of a high standard to ensure the security of all information it holds, including project data. These include:

    • Strong security arrangements for all information technology systems used for the project which conform with IT security arrangements set out in the Australian Government Information Security Manual;
    • Strict control of access to premises in accordance with the Commonwealth Protective Security Manual to ensure compliance with legislative responsibilities;
    • Appropriate personnel security arrangements. Upon appointment, all staff working on the project undergo security checks and are required to sign an undertaking of fidelity and secrecy. Additionally, security clearances are undertaken for key staff involved in the data linkage process;
    • A secured internet gateway which is reviewed annually by the Australian Signals Directorate;
    • Regular Protective Security risk reviews to ensure that security arrangements continue to be effective; and
    • An ongoing program of security audits and reviews of computer systems and the physical environment.