Thursday, 29 September 2016 17:36

Medical dataset pulled after doctor details leak Featured

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The federal Department of Health has been forced to remove a dataset made available to the public on the data.gov.au website after a researcher at Melbourne University found that service provider IDs could be identified.

The office of the Australian Information Commissioner was informed of the issue and the privacy commissioner said he had launched an inquiry into the same.

The data in question was extracted from the Pharmaceutical Benefits and Medicare Benefits schemes.

Dr Vanessa Teague, Dr Christopher Culnane and Dr Benjamin Rubinstein of Melbourne University's Department of Computing and Information Systems identified the issues with the dataset and notified the Department of Health on 12 September.

Teague told the department that she and her colleagues had analysed the 10% linked dataset and found it was possible to decrypt some service provider IDs.

The department claimed the dataset did not include names or addresses of service providers, adding that no patient information was identified.

An announcement by the Attorney-General George Brandis on Wednesday that the Privacy Act would be amended to make it a criminal offence to re-identify government data that has been de-identified may be a reaction to this incident.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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