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The Australian National University

Linking Sensitive Data

Methods and Techniques for Practical Privacy-Preserving
Information Sharing

Peter Christen, Thilina Ranbaduge, and Rainer Schnell

Published by Springer, November 2020, around 490 pages.

The Book describes how linkage methods work and how to evaluate their performance. It covers all the major concepts and methods and also discusses practical matters such as computational efficiency, which are critical if the methods are to be used in practice - and it does all this in a highly accessible way!   Prof David Hand, OBE, Imperial College London

Short video presentation about Linking Sensitive Data as presented at the IPDLN conference, November 2020.

An ANU news article about our book on Linking Sensitive Data, January 2021.

A short book synopsis has been published by the International Journal of Population Data Science.

Our new book Linking Sensitive Data provides modern technical answers to the legal requirements of pseudonymisation as recommended by privacy legislation. It covers topics such as modern regulatory frameworks for sharing and linking sensitive information, concepts and algorithms for privacy-preserving record linkage and their computational aspects, practical considerations such as dealing with dirty and missing data, as well as privacy, risk, and performance assessment measures.

Existing techniques for privacy-preserving record linkage are evaluated empirically and real-world application examples that scale to population sizes are described. The book also includes pointers to freely available software tools, benchmark data sets, and tools to generate synthetic data that can be used to test and evaluate linkage techniques.

This book consists of fourteen chapters grouped into four parts, and two appendices. The first part introduces the reader to the topic of linking sensitive data, the second part covers methods and techniques to link such data, the third part discusses aspects of practical importance, and the fourth part provides an outlook of future challenges and open research problems relevant to linking sensitive databases. The appendices provide pointers and describe freely available, open-source software systems that allow the linkage of sensitive data, and provide further details about the evaluations presented.

Intended Audience

The intended audiences of this book includes applied scientists, researchers, and practitioners in governments, industry, and universities who are concerned with developing, implementing, and deploying systems and tools to share sensitive information in administrative, commercial, or medical databases.

Examples include researchers in public health, road injury research, demography, criminology, history, education, and urban planning, as well as IT managers in hospitals and in government agencies, lawyers in official statistics, data custodians in administration, and public health researchers.

Furthermore, we believe this book to be of high value to graduates from computer science and related fields coming out of university who are starting to work in an organisation that is tasked with linking sensitive data.

The non-technical parts of the book will also be of vale to decision makers in organisations that are linking sensitive databases as these corresponding chapters will provide high level descriptions of the main concepts of how modern computer based methods can be used to link sensitive data while at the same time the privacy of the entities in these databases is protected.


Data linkage, record linkage, data matching, entity resolution, administrative data, personal data, microdata, privacy, privacy-preserving, anonymisation, pseudonymisation, encoding, encryption, hashing, Bloom filter, GDPR, HIPAA.

LSD evaluation programs (ZIP archive)

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