Data sensitivity

Who decides if data is sensitive?

Data may be considered sensitive for reasons of:

  • conservation, e.g. the locations of threatened species
  • biosecurity, e.g. unverified sightings of pests not previously recorded in Australia
  • privacy, e.g. specimens collected on private property, collectors names etc.

John Tann and Paul Flemons, working at the Australian Museum, undertook a study for the Atlas in 2009 to determine the difficulties associated with working with sensitive data and how they act as a barrier to data sharing. The study report was made available for public comment and is available at Our secrets are not your secrets: Sensitive data report. The creation of a Sensitive Data Service (SDS) was a key recommendation of the study.

The Atlas has worked with Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies as well as with data providers to obtain authoritative lists of species considered to be sensitive because of conservation or biosecurity related concerns. These agencies have also provided details of how data on those species is to be handled. The Atlas has developed SDS infrastructure to implement this advice.

The SDS has not been designed to handle privacy related sensitivity concerns.

The SDS enables data in sensitive records to be annotated, withheld or generalised according to a publicly available set of rules.
Please note, users are informed whenever data has been modified or withheld.

Learn more about theses external agencies and the species lists and rules they have provided to address conservation related sensitivities in Conservation Sensitivity related Atlas Data Sets.
Work on biosecurity related sensitivity rules is ongoing.

Conservation and biosecurity data sensitivity can also be checked online at Simply enter a single species name or upload a spreadsheet of names. Sensitivity checking via a web service is also planned.