Government linking our data

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Government linking our data

Oliver Pomeroy, Reporter

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The State Government may soon have more detailed profiles on each West Australian following a study posted last week about the data linkage capabilities of the state, and the potential to create detailed analyses.

Data linkage is when various strings of data, such as medical history and mental health records are linked together to create a simpler profile.

Usually, these data sets are separate but if these plans go through, they may be linked together.

The study was completed in December 2016 and addressed privacy concerns in its recommendations.

It suggested using ethics committees to review the data sets, to ensure the system is not being abused.

However, there are ministers in parliament who claim that data linkage is entirely positive.

Health minister Roger Cook said: “With some datasets spanning 45 years, the depth and breadth of the data linked through the system is almost unrivalled worldwide.”

Data linkage is not a new idea in Western Australia, as the process has been used since the 1970s.

Currently, most of the information is medical, but it is the addition of further information that causes concern.

Science minister Dave Kelly said: “”Government agencies collect a multitude of data in the course of their daily operations and it is imperative we maximise this valuable resource.

“Linking datasets is a highly valuable tool for research and analysis across policy, legislation, investment, prevention and intervention measures.”

This may seem like the first step towards a government espionage style future, but data linkage can be used in helpful ways.

For example, it can be used to make demographic research much easier to complete, as all the data is at the fingertips of the researcher.

The possibility of hacks and leaks are present, but ultimately data linkage may turn out to be a good thing for the state, even if it means sacrificing some of our privacy in the process.

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About the Writer
Oliver Pomeroy, ECU Reporter

Oliver Pomeroy is a young broadcaster studying broadcasting and journalism at Edith Cowan University. After a brief encounter in 2014, Oliver fell in love...

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Government linking our data