RDIM Step 2 - Manage Organise Data Triangulation, Data Linkage and Integrating Authorities

Triangulation, Data Linkage and Integrating Authorities

It's important researchers are aware that data that is not obviously sensitive (no names or dates of birth for example) or that has been de-identified, can become sensitive through triangulation or data linkage.

Triangulation in this context is the process of combining several pieces of non-sensitive information (in the same dataset) to determine the identity or sensitivity of a participant or subject.

Data linkage combines one or more datasets that include the same participant or subject, an activity that carries the risk of re-identification and may place subjects at risk. Data linkage is highly useful (it increases understanding without having to collect new data and derives greater value from existing datasets) and is increasingly common in epidemiology, medical, social and ecological sciences. Researchers should treat the new, linked dataset as an identifiable dataset and assess the risks involved.

High risk data integration projects involving information from Australian, state or territory governments will need to be managed by an accredited integrating authority such as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) or the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to ensure security. Once data is linked researchers will access it through a secure data lab in Canberra, a mobile data lab, a remote access computing environment or other secure arrangement and output and use of data will be monitored. The AIHW has useful information on data linkage on their website, including an overview of a typical data integration project.