What is data linking and matching?

Data linking and matching are processes of joining sources of information. The processes can join information relating to the same person, family, place or event.

Is data linking and matching safe?

Linked and matched data doesn't provide identifiable information to researchers. This means that no names, dates of birth or addresses are kept together with the linked and matched data. Access is only given to approved researchers under secure conditions.

Is data linking and matching legal?

Linked and matched data can only be used in approved projects. For each project, evidence must be provided to ensure that there is a clear benefit to the public. Processes are also in place to ensure that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 and other relevant legislation are followed.

What do we want to do?

The Welsh Government would like to link and match your anonymised data to other anonymised information about you which is available to the Welsh Government, the NHS or other public organisations. For example: your GP, hospital and education records.

Why do we want to link and match your data?

Linking and matching your data will give approved researchers; the Welsh Government; and other public organisations a wealth of extra information, so that they can have a clearer picture of issues in Wales and how to tackle them.

What will happen to my information?

The Welsh Government, a Trusted Third Party and a Secure Research Environment will work together to link your data with other anonymised information about you which is available to the Welsh Government, the NHS and other public organisations.

A Trusted Third Party is an organisation with secure facilities for linking data such as the Office for National Statistics or the NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS). A Secure Research Environment is a setting in which research can be done using anonymised information and where checks are carried out to make sure that identities are not revealed by the results of the analysis. Your name, address and postcode will remain separate from your data at all times and will not be available in the Secure Research Environment. The information is used for statistical and research purposes only.

How will this information be used?

Firstly, your information will be grouped with information from other people. This information will then be used to create statistical and research evidence about the Welsh population. No individual level information will be presented. Evidence is used in the development, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of policy. The information will also be used in Government statistical or research outputs. These Welsh Government outputs are published on the Welsh Government website, free of charge. The majority of statistics and research outputs can be found in the Statistics and Research area of the website.

Flowchart showing how we link your survey answers to other information.

Who will be able to use the linked data?

The data will be made available using a Secure Research Environment to approved researchers from the Welsh Government, universities or other accredited organisations for projects that have been approved by the Welsh Government. Only projects with a clear public benefit will be approved.

Before researchers are allowed to access data using a secure research environment, they must complete a training course to make sure they understand how to handle linked anonymised data safely, lawfully and responsibly.

Further Information

For further information, please contact the Admin Data Research Unit – Wales: adruwales@gov.wales.