Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.10, No.2, 1994. pp. 115132

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Conflicts Between the Needs for Access to Statistical Information and Demands for Confidentiality

With the growth of computer-based government records and the continued collection of statistical data for research, especially in the social sciences, there has been a concomitant growth in the desire to access statistical information by government, industry, and university-based researchers. Moreover, as a result of modern computer technology and ever-expanding computer networks, the costs of data acquisition and transfer continue to drop, and the desirability of access to statistical information collected by others increases. While government statistical agencies and survey researchers have always been concerned about the need to preserve the confidentiality of respondents to ensure the quality of statistical data, these concerns have been heightened by the decline in response rates for censuses and surveys over the past two decades. This paper examines the seeming conflicts between the two perspectives of data access and confidentiality protection and briefly outlines some of the issues involved from the perspectives of governments, statistical agencies, other large-scale gatherers of data, and individual researchers.

Cell suppression; confidentiality; intruders; masking; microdata access; probabilistic data disclosure.

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