Dataveillance by Governments:
The Technique of Computer Matching

Roger Clarke
Australian National University

Version of 8 July 1993

Published in Information Technology & People 7,2 (June 1994)

© Australian National University, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994


Computer Matching is a mass surveillance technique involving the comparison of data about many people, which has been acquired from multiple sources. Its use offers potential benefits, particularly financial savings. It is also error-prone, and its power results in threats to established patterns and values. The imperatives of efficiency and equity demand that computer matching be used, and the information privacy interest demands that it be used only where justified, and be subjected to effective controls.

This paper provides background to this important technique, including its development and application in the United States and in Australia, and a detailed technical description. It is contended that the technique, its use, and controls over its use are very important issues which demand research. Computing, telecommunications and robotics artefacts which have the capacity to radically change society need to be subjected to early and careful analysis, not only by sociologists, lawyers and philosophers, but also by information technologists themselves.


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