Overcoming the Impasse 2: Assessing the Quality of Recent Australian Applications of a Privacy-Preserving Record Linkage Method (PPRL-BLOOM)

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Sean Randall
Adrian Brown
Anna Ferrante
James Boyd
Katie Irvine
Tom Eitelhuber
Helen Wichmann


While the quantity and type of datasets used by data linkage projects is growing, there remain some datasets that are ‘not available’ or ‘hard to access’ by researchers and linkers, either due to legal/regulatory constraints restricting the release of personally identifying information or because of privacy or reputational concerns. Advances in privacy-preserving record linkage methods (e.g. PPRL-Bloom) have made it possible to overcome this impasse. These techniques aim to provide strong privacy protection while still maintaining high linkage quality.

PPRL-Bloom methods are being used in practice. The Centre for Data Linkage (CDL) at Curtin University has been involved in several PPRL linkage and evaluation projects using real-world data. As the methods are relatively new, published information on achievable linkage quality in real-world scenarios is limited.

Objectives and Approach
We present and describe several real-world applications of privacy preserving record linkage (PPRL-Bloom) where the quality of the linkage could be ascertained. In each case, data was linked ‘blind’; that is, without linkers having access to the original personal identifiers at any stage, or having any additional information about the records. Evaluations include a linkage of state-based morbidity and mortality records, a linkage of a number of general practice datasets to morbidity and emergency records, and a linkage of a range of state-based non-health administrative data, including education, police, housing, birth and child protection records.

The privacy preserving record linkage performed admirably, with very high-quality results across all evaluations.

Conclusion / Implications
Privacy preserving linkage is a useful and innovative methodology that is currently being used in real world projects. The results of these evaluation suggest it can be an appropriate linkage tool when legal or other constraints block release of personally identifying information to third party linkage units.

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How to Cite
Randall, S., Brown, A., Ferrante, A., Boyd, J., Irvine, K., Eitelhuber, T. and Wichmann, H. (2020) “Overcoming the Impasse 2: Assessing the Quality of Recent Australian Applications of a Privacy-Preserving Record Linkage Method (PPRL-BLOOM)”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 5(5). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v5i5.1489.

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