Ride sourcing 2015-16 to 2021-22 financial years data matching program

Our reference: 14/000171-029

[redacted]
Deputy Commissioner
Smarter Data
Australian Taxation Office 

By email: [redacted]
cc: [redacted]

Request for exemption from Guidelines on Data Matching in Australian Government Administration 

Dear [redacted]

I refer to your letter dated 20 March 2020 regarding the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) Ride sourcing 2015-16 to 2021-22 financial years data matching program protocol.

I understand that since 2015, the program has matched data relating to individuals that may be engaged in providing ride sourcing services (drivers) provided by ride sourcing facilitators (referred to in the protocol as ‘data providers’) against ATO records. This is to identify drivers who provide ride sourcing services that may not be meeting their registration, reporting, lodgement and/or payment obligations.

The ATO is seeking an exemption to publication conditions contained in Guideline 3.4a(iii) of the Guidelines on Data Matching in Australian Government Administration (the Guidelines). Specifically, the ATO is seeking to refrain from publishing the names of the ride sourcing facilitators who are selected to provide data, both in the gazette notice and the protocol document, on the basis that to publish would cause a commercial disadvantage.

Consideration of issues under Guideline 10

Under Guideline 10, in seeking an exemption an agency must:

  • advise the Commissioner in writing of the details of the proposed data matching program
  • in that advice, specify how the proposed data matching program would be inconsistent with the guidelines
  • explain the public interest grounds that justify the inconsistency.

In my view, the ATO’s correspondence satisfies these requirements. This includes explaining the public interest grounds for the exemption in the program protocol, such as that if the names of the data providers are published, this would:

  • unfairly identify ride sourcing facilitators cooperating with the ATO leading to a potential commercial disadvantage for those named
  • create the perception that may damage relationships between named businesses and their customers
  • potentially impact the Government’s intent to promote a ‘level playing field’ for commercial enterprises.

While the proposed variation from the Guidelines increases the risk to privacy by reducing the transparency of government operations, I accept that there are reasonable public interest grounds for doing so.

Exemption approval

I have considered the information provided by the ATO and agree that compliance with the publication of source entities would reduce the effectiveness of the ATO's data matching program by compromising source entities’ willingness to participate and cooperate with the data matching program. I am satisfied that the public interest grounds outlined by the ATO justify departing from the Guidelines.

I approve the ATO’s request to refrain from publishing the names of the ride sourcing facilitators who are selected to provide data both in the gazette notice and the protocol document.

The exemption is only applicable to the data collected for the Ride sourcing 2015-16 to 2021-22 financial years data matching program protocol.

Publication on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website

Under Guideline 10.6, it is the OAIC’s normal practice to make exemption requests publicly available. The ATO has advised it does not request that this advice be kept confidential and, as such, the OAIC will make it publicly available on the OAIC website.

Yours sincerely

Angelene Falk 

Australian Information Commissioner
Privacy Commissioner 
20 August 2020