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CES Task Force on Confidentiality and Microdata. Tiina Luige UNECE Statistical Division Conference of European Statisticians UN Economic Commission for Europe. Background.

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ces task force on confidentiality and microdata

CES Task Force on Confidentiality and Microdata

Tiina Luige

UNECE Statistical Division

Conference of European Statisticians

UN Economic Commission for Europe

  • Conference of European Statisticians (CES) = Heads of the statistical offices of 55 ECE member countries + non-European OECD countries + int. org-s
  • Plenary session every June – 53rd in 2005


  • In 2003 a seminar on Statistical Confidentiality and Microdata

=> dealing with managerial issues of confidentiality and microdata access

ces in 2003 agreed that
CES in 2003 agreed that …
  • confidentiality is becoming an international issue
  • need to unify the approaches internationally and to agree on core principles for dissemination of microdata
    • to address research access internationally
    • to help countries that are in the process of setting up their legal background and procedures
    • help in discussions with user community and other government agencies
  • principles general enough to be applicable in countries with different level of development
  • accompanied by guidelines and good practices
  • endorsed by the CES
fundamental principles of official statistics
Fundamental principles of official statistics

Principle 6: data confidentiality

  • “Individual data collected by statistical agencies for statistical compilation, whether or not they refer to natural or legal persons, are to be strictly confidential and used exclusively for statistical purposes”
tf on confidentiality and microdata
TF on Confidentiality and Microdata
  • Members: Australia (Chair), Canada, Denmark, Georgia, Italy, Poland, UNECE
  • Website: http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/tfcm.htm
  • First draft presented at the CES 2004 plenary session:
  • Comments from countries
  • 2nd version at the 2005 CES plenary session “Managing confidentiality and microdata access: guidelines and core principles”
  • 3rd version for the 2005 October meeting of the CES Bureau
  • June 2006 – planned final endorsement of the Guidelines
  • Perspectives of the statistical offices and the research community
  • Core principles
  • Methods of supporting the research community (anonymised microdata files, remote access facilities, data laboratories)
  • Management issues associated with the release of microdata (decision making, metadata, breaches by researchers)
  • Special issues (international access, data linking)
  • Case studies (21)
  • Principle 1: It is appropriate for microdata collected for official statistical purposes to be used for secondary data analysis to support research as long as there are prescribed conditions that protect confidentiality.
  • Principle 2: Microdata should only be made available for statistical purposes.
  • Principle 3: Provision of microdata should be consistent with legal and other necessary arrangements which ensure that confidentiality of the released microdata is protected.
  • Principle 4:The processes for researcher access to microdata as well as the uses and users of microdata should be transparent, and publicly available.
perspective of the research community
Perspective of the research community
  • From research side has been some criticism that the Guidelines are too restrictive, especially from the census microdata users
  • Guidelines apply to
    • both economic and social microdata
    • very different countries: big/small, developed market economies/developing and transition countries
  • Final responsibility for confidentiality lies with statistical offices
issues where different opinions are expressed
Issues where different opinions are expressed:
  • “Statistical purposes”
    • microdata could be used for research purposes using statistical models, analysis and data based on microdata
  • Equality of access
    • transparent procedures
  • Informed consent
    • active and passive consent
  • Public Use Files
    • stocktaking of different approaches needed
different opinions expressed cont
Different opinions expressed (cont.):
  • Internationalaccess – more developed in the updated version
    • enforcing punishment across borders
    • access by international organizations
  • Public benefit
    • better criterion: furthering the objectives of statistical offices
  • Other:
    • conflict with data protection laws
    • sensitive variables
    • differentkinds of research

=> Flexibility in implementation should be allowed

unece survey on international access to microdata fall 2005
UNECE Survey on international access to microdata (fall 2005)
  • Sent out to UNECE and OECD member countries - 61 countries, 43 responded ( response rate about 70%)
  • Majority of countries release microdata to international organisations (only 3 do not)
  • Can release: 55% as PUF, 82% licensed microdata files, few RAF (12%)
  • Do release: 40% as PUF, 67% licensed files
  • 50% to an int. organization as a whole, 50% to an individual
  • business and household data - 65% the same arrangements, 32% different
  • 85% can release to researchers collaborating with int. org.; 77% to researchers from other countries
further steps
Further steps:
  • Target date for final version for endorsement by the CES: June 2006
  • Will become the “UNECE Principles of confidentiality and access to microdata”, an extension of fundamental principles of official statistics in the area of confidentiality
for more information
For more information:
  • Website: http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/tfcm.htm
  • Chairman: Dennis Trewin, Australian Bureau of Statistics ([email protected])
  • UNECE Secretariat: Tiina Luige ([email protected])