A small proportion of species in the ALA are considered sensitive. There are many reasons a species might be considered sensitive. It might be highly endangered or at risk of collection or disturbance. The data associated with these sensitive species is also considered sensitive meaning that if the exact location of the species was known, individuals of that species might be at risk.
To protect these species, the ALA has a sensitive data service to lessen the accuracy of location data for sensitive species records.
For more information, view How does the ALA handle sensitive data?
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 ALA 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 ALA 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 ALA 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. Visit ALA Species Lists to learn more about these external agencies and the species lists and rules they have provided to address conservation related sensitivities
To check conservation and biosecurity data sensitivity online visit sds.ala.org.au. Simply enter a single species name or upload a spreadsheet of names. Sensitivity checking via a web service is also planned.