Sensitive Data

Working with sensitive data requires extra care. Often confidential, it can include identifiable personal and health/medical data, Indigenous data, ecological data, and commercial-in-confidence data.

Sensitive data is commonly subject to legal and ethical obligations that impose restrictions on how it is accessed, used and handled. The data often can’t simply be published and made openly accessible.

But metadata records can help with sharing sensitive information, if the records describe the data without directly reporting any of the confidential information.

Publishing Sensitive Data


Although there may be restrictions on how sensitive data is used, its value to research and potential benefits to society are significant.

Understand how to publish sensitive data for maximum benefit in a way that is safe and ethical using our Publishing Sensitive Data guide and the Publishing Sensitive Data flowchart.

Identifiable Data


Data that contains identifying information (such as names and contact details) needs to comply with privacy laws and be carefully managed through access controls and data security measures. Techniques such as ‘de-identification’ of identifiable data can protect the privacy of research subjects and be considered when researchers want to publish their data.

Learn more about identifiable data.

Indigenous Data


Data about First Nations peoples is complex legal and ethical terrain and can relate to cultural, linguistic, medical or other factors. This data needs to be managed and shared with care, and with consideration of self-determination and the right of people to have a say about managing their cultural heritage in ways that are meaningful to them.

Learn more about indigenous data.

Data Sharing Considerations for Human Research Ethics Committees


People on human research ethics committees have an important task to navigate the processes involved in ethically and legally sharing sensitive data. Our ARDC guide can help committee members confidently assess applications, and manage and share sensitive data throughout the data’s lifecycle.

Learn more about data sharing and ethics committees.

Read our guide: Data sharing considerations or human research ethics committees.

  • Publishing Sensitive Data guide

    DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7115157

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    Cover of the ARDC Publishing Sensitive Data Guide with the key messages
  • Publishing Sensitive Data flowchart

    DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.6565165

    The issues and approaches to publishing sensitive data are outlined in this flowchart.

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    A thumbnail of the Publishing Sensitive Data Flowchart