1. Broad description
The Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) is a web-based tool that allows authorised users to access detailed microdata that is stored within the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) secure environment. Built-in automatic checks prevent large-scale release of unit record information, thus maintaining confidentiality of data providers as outlined in Australian legislation.
2. Why is it good practice?
The RADL provides access to more detailed and less confidentialised microdata than can be made available on CD-ROM. It provides greater flexibility in user analysis of microdata.
Access is limited to authorised users. All microdata remains within the ABS computing system. A balanced mix of automatic and manual processes prevent clients from obtaining outputs containing large amounts of unit record information. An audit trail is automatically maintained.
3. Target audience
The RADL is primarily targeted at Australian government agencies involved in policy development and research areas within Australian universities. To a lesser extent, the RADL is also used for research purposes by the private sector and by non-profit institutions.
4. Detailed description
Potential users of microdata are required to sign legal undertakings and read training material provided before RADL access will be granted. Authorised users are required to comply with published data-security guidelines and any further instructions of the ABS.
The RADL operates as a three-stage process. Clients submit batch-style queries via a secure section of the ABS website, which are firstly parsed for illegal commands. If the query is accepted, it is then executed in conjunction with ABS confidentialised microdata files. Finally, all produced output is automatically checked for confidentiality issues before being made available to clients on a secure web page.
A retrospective auditing process manually checks for inappropriate use of ABS microdata, and provides empirical evidence that automatic checks have been applied appropriately.
5. Supporting legislation
The release of microdata by the ABS is governed by legislation, the Census and Statistics Act 1905. This legislation enables the Australian Statistician to release unit record data, provided this is done "in a manner that is not likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organization to which it relates". Section 5 of Annex 1.1 provides more detail.
(i) Provides a secure online access point, from which users may access detailed ABS microdata from their own computing environments.
(ii) Automatic protection of output at time of execution allows quick turnaround.
(iii) Enables ABS to release more detailed microdata than that which can be released on CD-ROM.
(iv) Flexibility of user analysis. Users are not restricted to a set of predefined tables.
(v) Users are alleviated of CD-ROM security and data storage concerns.
(vi) Statistical software is provided by ABS. Users do not need to supply their own licenses.
(i) Researchers still believe the conditions of release are too limiting and that the steps taken to make identification unlikely result in too little detail being released.
(ii) Limited to batch-mode style of programming, lack of graphical-user interface functionality.
(iii) Time taken to build automatic protections limits variety of statistical software packages made available.
(iv) Heavy manual auditing load.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2005), Responsible Access to ABS Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) Training manual, Edition 2, Canberra, Australia, also available at www.abs.gov.au->services we provide->curfs.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2004), The Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) User Guide, Revised Version 2.0, Canberra, Australia, also available at www.abs.gov.au->services we provide->curfs.
Access to ABS CURFs web pages at www.abs.gov.au->services we provide->curfs.
30 Aug 2013