New Guidelines Improve Data Sharing and Privacy

Release Date: 
19 March 2019
Media release

New guidelines have been released today that will provide Australians with greater certainty and trust that their privacy is appropriately protected when Federal agencies use and share data.

Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said data held by government agencies is a valuable national resource which, when used correctly, can enhance public policy and decision-making, while also helping to drive economic growth and development.

"But in order for those benefits to be realised, Australians must have confidence that their privacy and security remains paramount when public sector data is being accessed or shared," Minister Keenan said.

"The new guidelines released today will help to deliver that confidence by ensuring a more consistent and comprehensive approach to data sharing across the Australian Public Service.

"The guidelines also recognise that privacy and data use are not mutually exclusive: in fact, we can strengthen privacy by better using and analysing the data we have."

The Sharing Data Safely guidelines apply an internationally-recognised framework to provide five key Data Sharing Principles to guide agencies on how to best share and release government data in an appropriate manner.

The Data Sharing Principles are:

  1. Projects: Data is shared for an appropriate purpose that delivers a public benefit.
  2. People: The user has the appropriate authority to access the data.
  3. Settings: The environment in which the data is shared minimises the risk of unauthorised use or disclosure.
  4. Data: Appropriate and proportionate protections are applied to the data.
  5. Output: The output from the data sharing arrangement is appropriately safeguarded before any further sharing or release.

The guidelines were developed by the office of the National Data Commissioner which was established by the Coalition in May last year to help improve data protection and management.

As custodians of public data, Federal agencies are currently governed by a complex web of more than 500 different rules, laws and regulations that restrict access to data. This situation has often resulted in agencies adopting a default position of always saying no to requests for data to be shared, even when the privacy of individuals could easily be protected, or the benefits to wider community were significant.

To simplify this situation, the Commonwealth is working on a new Data Sharing and Release Act that will strengthen privacy, while also clarifying the circumstances under which data can and should be made publicly available.

The new guidelines will act as an interim measure while the legislation is being prepared.

“The Coalition Government is making sure that privacy, safety and security are built into the core of everything we do, but that does not mean we have to lock up public data and throw away the key,” Minister Keenan said.

“That is why we are taking this robust approach to ensure stringent privacy provisions are maintained as we seek to tap into the social and economic benefits that data can deliver.”

Information for Australians on how their data will be shared safely is available through: