Govt embraces Five Safes in new data sharing guidance

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Govt embraces Five Safes in new data sharing guidance

Tries to improve public trust.

The federal government has released new guidance to agencies on how to use and share personal data while protecting the privacy of Australian citizens.

The Data Sharing Safely [pdf] guidelines, published on Tuesday, are intended to help data custodians navigate through the minefield of data sharing risks before releasing government data.

They are aimed at building community trust around government’s handling of data at a time when public scepticism is at an all-time high due in part to the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal.

The guidelines also serve as a stopgap while the government continues to develop sweeping new data sharing laws, which propose making far more public data available for sharing and release.

The proposed Data Sharing and Release Act will overrule what is currently described as a “complex web” of 500 existing data secrecy and confidentiality provisions across more than 175 pieces of legislation.

As such, the guidelines are equally focused on “promot[ing] more flexible, principle-driven data access arrangements” to extract maximum value from government data holdings for public benefit.

The guidelines are based on the internationally-recognised Five-Safes framework, which provides five key data sharing principles across: projects, people, setting, data and output.

They have been developed by the office of the National Data Commissioner and the Australian Bureau of Statistics over the last six months to complement agencies' existing legislative data protections.

Announcing the guidelines, Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said there was a need for individuals to “have confidence that their privacy will always remain paramount when private data is being accessed for research purposes,” he said.

“The new guidelines we have prepared will help to deliver that confidence by ensuring a more uniform and consistent approach to data sharing across the Australian Public Service.”

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